“If I am not thin enough, no one will like me,” “I am always lonely,” “I can’t tell my parents because they will worry, and I can’t tell my friends because they will think I am crazy.” These are statements I often hear from teen girls I counsel.
They feel like they need to be perfect in their grades, physical appearance, personality, sports and every other area of their lives. They feel like they need to take care of others’ problems instead of focusing on their own, and they work very hard at developing a “mask” so their true feelings will not be revealed. For many teens, these are signs of depression.
Some more well-known signs of depression include a drop in grades, pulling away from friends or activities they enjoyed in the past and suicidal thoughts.
Some kids are very driven. It’s their nature, and they can’t help but to succeed in many areas of their lives. If your teen has these qualities, he or she may be doing just fine. But, it’s still a good idea to ask how he or she is managing Advanced Placement classes, athletics and other pressures in his or her life.
Other kids define their value through good grades and other external successes. This can be a sign of low self-esteem. Their happiness is fragile because it often relies on a single performance.
Working with teens to overcome depression
We need to work on understanding teens. Instead of relying on diagnostic criteria or how other adults define depression, we should listen to what teens are saying and watch their behavior. I have worked with many teens who overcame depression. It’s important to let teens be themselves, to step in as a parent and get professional help, when needed and to make it clear their well-being and happiness is the top priority.
- Katie Jensen, MSE, LPC, therapist, Catalpa Health
Catalpa Health, located in Appleton, Wis., was formed to address the mental health needs of kids in the Fox Valley. It is a partnership of Affinity Health System, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and ThedaCare. Katie specializes in anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, interpersonal issues, family issues, parent/child conflict, behavioral issues and struggles with self-identity.