Dear Mom and Dad,
It’s probably not the first word you thought you’d associate with your teenage boy. And yet, identifying your son’s symptoms may save his life. For weeks he’s been irritable and more aggressive than usual. Maybe he struggles with other challenges that weigh heavily on you both.
Let’s Be Honest About Your Feelings
It’s normal for you to feel overwhelmed, upset, hopeless, or even angry. You may be afraid and asking questions like, “Am I losing my son?” You may have moments when you feel strong and others when you want to lash out or throw in the towel. Those sleepless nights that thought you left in his infancy may be back again.
We understand how emotionally draining this process can be. We can also assure you that with the support of loving parents and evidence-based treatment, many boys like yours find their unique paths back to happiness.
How do we know?
We work with clinically depressed boys and their parents every day.
We’ve learned that parents like you are a vital part of this healing process. That means your son needs you to be the healthiest version of yourself. You can do that by being honest about your feelings and allowing yourself to process them.
His depression isn’t his fault, but it isn’t yours either. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to honestly express your feelings to trusted friends and family members.
There’s a beautiful Helen Keller quote that reads:
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Even when we’re surrounded by people, it’s easy to feel alone when they’re not experiencing the same struggles we are. Please know that you are not alone in dealing with your son’s depression. We’re in this together. Yes, we. While we don’t know everything you went through before reading this, we’re writing this letter to let you know you have a support system.
We support and empower clinically depressed teenage boys and their parents daily. It’s okay if you don’t have all of the answers or know the best questions to ask right now. Your family has a lot of information to learn and process right now. That’s why we created resources like our Depression In Teens parent guide with you in mind. We’re here to make your life easier.
Let’s start by learning how to identify clinical depression and the unique way it affects teenagers.
The Unique Effect of Depression on Teenagers
Adolescence isn’t easy for anybody.
Teenagers experience periods of emotional instability as their minds and bodies grow rapidly. That’s what makes clinical depression more difficult to identify in teenagers. Maybe you’ve witnessed adult family members or friends going through depression and compare it to what your son experiences. The truth is, adults experience depression differently than teenagers.
Adults may isolate themselves and withdraw from their closest family and friends during a depressive episode. When we see teenagers continue to spend time with their close friends, we may assume that all is well with them. That’s not always the case. Depressed teenagers may choose to only withdraw from the adults who are closest to them.
treatment programs for teens
Depression takes a toll on the moods of both teenagers and adults but in different ways. A depressed adult often expresses feelings of sadness. During depressive episodes, you may notice your teenage son is angry and irritable. His sleeping patterns may change. You may notice him sleeping at odd hours. While depressed adults struggle with insomnia, teenagers will often sleep during odd hours during a depressive episode.
Is It Time To Seek Professional Help?
There comes a point in your life when you know you’re in over your head. That’s how depression can feel for both teenagers and their parents.
But it doesn’t have to get to that point.
Teenage boys often hide the depth of their struggles, making them harder to identify as depression. While typical teenagers go through periods of sadness or mood swings, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests you should contact a professional if you notice:
- A negative change in behavior that lasts for more than two weeks
- A lack of interest in routine activities that your son enjoyed before his current mood
- Hints or jokes about suicide and self-harm
- Increased fatigue or memory loss
- Any difficulty concentrating
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- An increased temper
- A decline in school performance
Your son may experience all these symptoms, or maybe just a few. We suggest that if any of these symptoms last for more than a couple of weeks, it’s better to play things safe. Talk to your son to determine if you think – based on the list above – that he is in fact depressed. If you think he is, you can begin considering treatment options.
What Treatment Options Should I Consider?
If your son is indeed suffering from clinical depression, we want you to know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not a reflection of your parenting. The fact you’re reading this means you want the best for him. You’re doing the right thing by exploring all your options. Take a deep breath and take your time considering the best course of action for your family. We suggest you begin with seeing your family doctor who can refer you to a mental health professional for an official diagnosis.
Once your son receives an accurate diagnosis from a mental health professional, follow their recommendations. They may suggest talk therapy or medication. Whether you’re referred to a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, it’s important to give him time to adjust to their recommended treatment plan. In some cases, adolescents need to consider more intensive treatment options to fully manage their depressive disorder.
If you take all these steps and your son still struggles or his symptoms get worse, here are some more intensive treatment options to consider:
- Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
- Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)
- Residential Treatment Centers (RTC)
- Psychiatric Hospitalization
These options may seem overwhelming, but remember what we said earlier?
You’re not alone.
We want to help you make the best decision and help you create the best treatment plan possible. While we want to make sure your son is taken care of, we won’t forget how important your mental health is in this process.
Let’s Get Back to You
Take a deep breath. Give yourself a hug. If the weight on your shoulders feels too heavy to bear, consider speaking to a therapist yourself. What you’re going through isn’t easy and it’s important to take care of yourself.
What did you enjoy doing before your son began to struggle with depression?
Get back to that. There’s time for you in this process, too.
Remember, his treatment progress is related to your wellbeing. He’ll look to you for hope, strength, and love. First, you have to make sure you replenish your own supply of those essential elements. We know how hard this is, but you’re already doing an amazing job.
We prepare for runny noses and skinned knees, but who prepares for depression?
Now that it’s here, we’re going to make the best of it. Remember: we’re in this together.
With love, hope, and optimism,
Evolve Treatment Centers
Ready to Get Help for Your Child?Evolve offers CARF and Joint Commission accredited treatment for teens with mental health disorders and/or substance abuse. Your child will receive the highest caliber of care in our comfortable, home-like residential treatment centers. We offer a full continuum of care, including residential, partial hospitalization/day (PHP), and intensive outpatient treatment (IOP).
Christine is a writer from New York City with over 10 years worth of bylines under her belt. She is passionate about improving the mental health of adolescents.