When a teenager is diagnosed with depression, it is normal for parents to feel overwhelmed and that they are looking for information on the best treatment options, write a new resource for patients published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Although depression affects about 20% of teenagers, many do not ask for help and are reluctant to talk to their parents about what they are experiencing, the authors note.

"Many teens do not seek treatment for many reasons, and those who come to our office often say that they do not want to talk to their father or mother because they already have a lot to do, "said Dr. Ana Radovic of the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital in Pennsylvania, who co-authored the patient resource.

"Parents can also feel guilty about being the reason for the depression, especially in the event of a divorce," Radovic told Good Medical Health during a phone interview. "At the same time, they must realize that they do not control everything that goes on in their child's life."

Available free of charge, the new patient page offers practical advice on options that parents should consider to help their teen, noting that teenage depression differs from adult depression in terms of symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Although it is normal for teens to become moody, irritable and independent at the time of puberty, the extreme changes that lead to the withdrawal of their friends and their activities, as well as expressions of hopelessness or despair. uselessness, are worrying. These are not typical manifestations of teenage anxiety.

"It can be difficult for parents to identify symptoms, especially because teens are undergoing so many changes that are normal for their development," Radovic said.

It is important for parents to realize that not all depressions are the same. Thus, the treatment will vary depending on several factors, including the severity of depression and the presence of mental illnesses such as attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, substance abuse or bipolar disorder.

We have seen countless healing stories as parents and children gather in meetings and establish open communication. Maria Silva

In addition, not all therapies are the same. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy is often recommended for children and adolescents to learn more about their depressive thoughts and to develop the skills needed to change them. Another type of speech therapy, called interpersonal therapy, focuses on solving interpersonal problems and social functioning problems. Both therapies have the most evidence of their effectiveness in treating depression in adolescents, according to the resource for patients.

Some teens may also benefit from an antidepressant, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), safe drugs associated with a decrease in the suicide rate, the authors said. Parents, adolescents, and physicians should discuss treatment preferences, the severity of depression, and the associated mental or physical illnesses to find the best prescription.

In addition, the patient resource focuses on sleep, nutrition and physical activity. "Teens simply do not have the cognitive energy needed to manage depression without enough sleep," the authors write. And lack of sleep has been associated with a worsening of depression, especially among teens who have to get up early to go to school every day.

Although lifestyle changes related to sleep, diet, and exercise may be difficult to impose on a depressed teenager who does not want to get out of bed, there may be strategies to encourage healthy behaviors. in all members of the family. Overall, it is also important to talk to children and youth about depression, anxiety, and suicide to improve communication and normalize conversation about the topics.

"Parents fear that, if they talk about suicide with their children, this will happen and it's just not true, instead, avoiding the subject makes the subject taboo and inaccessible", said Maria Silva, head of the Allegheny Family Network program in Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the patient page.

It is important that parents find support through a reliable health care team and a group of local mental health advocates, such as the National Alliance. for mental health, to help them through the support process of their child.

"These groups eliminate the feeling of loneliness and give hope stories, so you know you do not have to do it alone," Silva told Good Medical Health by phone. "We have seen countless healing stories as parents and children gather at meetings and allow open communication."

Where to find help:

Canadian Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (telephone) | 45645 (Text) | crisisservicescanada.ca (Chat)

In Quebec (French): Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

Youth, I'm listening: 1-800-668-6868 (Phone), Live Chat Advice to www.kidshelpphone.ca

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a crisis center open 24 hours a day

According to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, if you are concerned that someone you know is at risk of suicide, you should talk about it. Here are some warning signs:

Suicidal thoughts.
Substance abuse.
Without any goal.
Feel trapped.
Despair and helplessness.
Mood changes.