Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

You are your teenager's best advocate to help him or her succeed. Here are some steps you and your teen can take that may help:

  • Stick to the treatment plan. Make sure your teen attends appointments, even if he or she doesn't feel like going. Even if your teen is feeling well, make sure he or she continues to take medications as prescribed. If your teen stops taking medications, depression symptoms may come back. And quitting suddenly may cause withdrawal-like symptoms.
  • Learn about depression. Education can empower your teen and motivate him or her to stick to a treatment plan. It can also benefit you and other loved ones to learn about depression and understand that it's a treatable condition.
  • Encourage communication with your teen. Talk to your teen about the changes you're observing and emphasize your unconditional support. Create an environment where your teen can share concerns while you listen.
  • Pay attention to warning signs. Work with your teen's doctor or therapist to learn what might trigger depression symptoms. Make a plan so that you and your teen know what to do if symptoms get worse. Ask family members or friends to help watch for warning signs.
  • Make sure your teen adopts healthy habits. Regular exercise, even light physical activity, can help reduce depression symptoms. Sleeping well is important for all teens, especially those with depression. If your teen is having trouble sleeping, ask the doctor for advice.
  • Help your teen avoid alcohol and other drugs. Your teen may feel like alcohol, marijuana or other drugs lessen depression symptoms, but in the long run they worsen symptoms and make depression harder to treat. Talk with the doctor or therapist if your teen needs help to deal with alcohol or drug use.
  • Remove all guns from your home if you live with a teen who has depression.

Coping and support

Showing interest and the desire to understand your teenager's feelings lets him or her know you care. You may not understand why your teen feels hopeless or has a sense of loss or failure. But listen without judging and try to put yourself in your teen's position. Help build your teen's self-esteem by recognizing small successes and offering praise about competence.

Encourage your teen to:

  • Make and keep healthy friendships. Positive relationships can help boost your teen's confidence and help him or her stay connected with others. Encourage your teen to avoid relationships with people whose attitudes or behaviors could make depression worse.
  • Stay active. Participation in sports, school activities or a job can help keep your teen focused on positive things, rather than negative feelings or behaviors.
  • Ask for help. Teens may be reluctant to seek support when life seems overwhelming. Encourage your teen to talk to a family member or other trusted adult whenever needed.
  • Have realistic expectations. Many teens judge themselves when they aren't able to live up to unrealistic standards — academically, in athletics or in appearance, for example. Let your teen know that it's OK not to be perfect.
  • Simplify life. Encourage your teen to carefully choose obligations and commitments, and set reasonable goals. Let your teen know that it's OK to do less when he or she feels down.
  • Structure time. Help your teen plan activities by making lists or using a planner to stay organized.
  • Keep a private journal. Journaling may help improve your teen's mood by allowing your teen to express and work through pain, anger, fear or other emotions.
  • Connect with other teens who struggle with depression. Ask the treatment provider if there are local support groups for teen depression. Depression support groups are offered online, but check them out to make sure they're trustworthy sites — such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness or the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
  • Stay healthy. Do your part to make sure your teen eats regular, healthy meals, gets regular exercise and gets enough sleep. Bring healthy foods into the home and keep unhealthy foods out, and establish a lights out time at bedtime.

Prevention

There's no sure way to prevent depression. However, these strategies may help. Encourage your teenager to:

  • Take steps to control stress, increase resilience and boost self-esteem to help handle issues when they arise
  • Reach out for friendship and social support, especially in times of crisis
  • Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent depression from worsening
  • Maintain ongoing treatment, if recommended, even after symptoms let up, to help prevent a relapse of depression symptoms