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It’s estimated that around 166,000 girls and 67,000 boys of that age across the UK are depressed. Following a recent study, undertaken by academics at University College London and the University of Liverpool.
Worryingly, they concluded that one in four girls have depression by the time they hit 14.
This has been put down to body image, bullying and social media – each of which can have a huge impact on young people’s mental health.
It is estimated that 24 per cent of 14-year-old girls and nine per cent of boys the same age have depression.
The study suggests that parents underestimate the signs of depression among teenage girls, although overestimate how common the condition is among boys that age too.
Are you noticing the signs?
As common as depression can be, are you blind to the signs? Christine shares five signs your daughter may be depressed:
- Changes in sleep patterns
Most teenagers show changes in their sleep patterns and often sleep for long periods but if your daughter is sleeping excessively, or is showing unusual sleep patterns or finding it very difficult to sleep, this may indicate depression.
- Lack of motivation, loss of interest
Depression can manifest itself in a general apathy and lack of interest, possible reluctance to take part in activities the teenager previously enjoyed and which they could realistically be expected to still take pleasure in.
Working obsessively, losing interest in school work, poor concentration and memory are also possible indicators of depression. Schools are judged by academic results and can put tremendous pressure on students to excel, often at the expense of a reasonable work-life balance. It is also easy for parents to become caught up in this. Students, however, need to achieve “good enough” results that will enable them to achieve their career goals. This can be a factor leading to depression.
- Social Isolation
Today’s young people rely a great deal on social media as a means to communicate with their peers so may spend long periods physically alone in their rooms but in contact with their friends via their mobiles or tablets. However, if they hide away and avoid social contact for long periods this may indicate depression.
- Lack of personal care or obsessive concerns about appearance
There is tremendous pressure on young people to look and behave in certain ways. If this becomes too obsessive or if your daughter shows no interest in personal hygiene and self-care this may be an indication of depression.
- Changes in eating habits
For some, depression can lead to loss of appetite and interest in food, for others it can lead to comfort eating.
- Mood Changes
For some adolescents, depression is manifested through low mood and a sense of sadness but anger can also be a symptom of depression.
Teenagers will rely on parents, teachers or other adults around them to notice their suffering and help them find the support they are seeking. But that isn’t always easy. However, if you think your child is depressed, there are ways you can support them.
How to support your daughter with depression
- Be available to listen and encourage her to talk, especially about how she feels and her concerns. Avoid giving advice, telling her not to worry or making judgements – acknowledge how she feels, give her the space to express it and to offload.
- If she is reluctant to talk to you, continue to make yourself available, give her time, be around enough for her to be able to talk to you if she needs to. It may be that she needs to talk to someone she is not so close to and may benefit from speaking to a counsellor or teacher.
- You may feel anxious if you think your daughter is depressed, but try not to let this show. Some girls are reluctant to tell their parents how bad they are feeling if they feel it will distress them.
- Encourage her to be social, to sit with you in the evenings and to see friends and family members, even if only for short periods.
- Make sure she has a good balance between school work and relaxation, and that she has time for herself, particularly in the evenings and weekends.
- Reassure her if she has strong feelings and mood swings. Young people can become fearful of being bipolar or of “going mad” and can be frightened by the strength of what they feel. Because she feels really low now does not mean she always will – strong, negative feelings will pass.
- Encourage her to exercise as much as possible.
- Encourage her to eat well, to have breakfast and to avoid junk food.
- Do not expect her to “snap out of it”. Depression has its own time frame but it invariably does pass.
Don’t forget to be aware of the effect on your own feelings as an adult, if you feel you need it, seek support for yourself.
Adolescence is a time when your child is trying to become independent of you and as part of this separation process, she may say hurtful and painful things and her growing independence can lead to a sense of loss.
If your daughter is depressed you may feel that you are not doing enough, that it is your fault or that you need to do something to make her feel better. Always remember you will be doing enough by being there for her and letting her know she is loved.
If you are struggling with your child being depressed or you’re seeking support for your child, consider speaking to a professional. You can find a registered psychotherapist or counsellor in your local area by using Counselling Directory, or through your doctor.
Editor’s note: For more information, contact Lauren Richardson, firstname.lastname@example.org, Counselling Directory PR Assistant, on 01276 301235. Alternatively, you can email email@example.com. The article above is available for reprint in whole or in part, please credit Counselling Directory. High-res stock photos available on request.