Minding Your Teen’s Mind

By Dr. Elyse Dubo

Being a parent means having to think about more than your own state of mind. And having a teenager can be particularly challenging in terms of knowing what’s going on. Have you been thinking that your teen has a bad case of adolescence? Teenage blues, adolescent turmoil and teen rebellion could, in fact, be teenage depression, a serious mental health problem affecting up to 10% of teens.

Depression in teenagers wears many masks. It can look like prickly irritability and defiance or not caring anymore about school and failing grades. It can look like staying up half the night on the computer and not wanting to get up in the morning. It can look like drug and alcohol abuse. It is so easy to get caught up in the fight and struggle of trying to get your teen to do what they are supposed to do and miss the signs. If you are struggling with your teen, you are not going to get anywhere. Most teens with depression won’t tell you what’s wrong, unless of course they have Googled their symptoms on the Internet.

If irritability is prominent, they will think that you, their parent, caregiver, teacher or coach are the problem. They might demand that you leave them alone. Don’t. They don’t mean it. They just don’t want to feel like a disappointment and failure. As difficult as it can be, it so important to try to find some way to remain empathic. Keep your anger in check, find an olive branch and try to build a connection with your teen. He or she needs you on their side.

Having a depressed teen in the house can cause a great deal of parental stress and family turmoil, especially when the teen’s behavior is seen as “bad” and not understood to be related to the symptoms of depression.You have to remain empathic, even though that can be very hard. Stepping out of the struggle, trying to maintain open lines of communication with your teen and communicating unconditional love and acceptance are important first steps in helping your teen accept that there is a problem and getting him or her the help they need.



Dr. Elyse Dubo is a staff psychiatrist in the Youth Mood and Anxiety Disorders clinic at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and has co-produced two films on teen depression.






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