My teen is depressed: how can I help him get better?

Depression in adolescents is a phenomenon against which parents are often destitute. How to know if his child is depressed, what to do to help him… Advice from Aline Nativel Id Hammou, psychologist.

When a adolescent is depressed, the situation is difficult to manage for him, but also for his parents. The latter often do not know how to react to help him get better. They are especially destitute when their teenager tells them of his suicidal desires. To help a teenager get out of this disorder, Aline Nativel Id Hammou, clinical psychologist specializing in the field of childhood, adolescence and the family, gives us his advice.

First of all, you have to know what a depressive state is, different from a temporary depression. “The depression is a mood disorder, characterized by a significant, chronic, intense state of sadness “, explains Aline Nativel Id Hammou. When a teenager, or an adult, becomes depressed, they may have thoughts related to death. “Someone who is depressed must have dark thoughts, he thinks of death. If he does not necessarily think of his own death at the start, it will lead to suicidal thoughts”, explains the psychologist.

Signs of depression in teens are similar to symptoms experienced by adults. However, certain things will be highlighted, says the expert. “What will really be characterized in adolescents is withdrawal. It will be very important, and be accompanied by a relationship disorder. Contrary to what one might think, he will first have relationship problems with his peers, young people of the same age. It is only then that it will become a relationship disorder vis-à-vis adults, and their parents. “

A depressed adolescent will also have problems with his body image, which results in eating disorders. “We talk about ‘bulimic allure’ or ‘anorexic allure’ because it is not exactly bulimia or anorexia. In adolescents, it will more often be anorexic-like disorder, because it will be related to his desire to disappear, which will bring these dark ideas and these suicidal urges, explains Aline Nativel Id Hammou. Because the adolescent who is depressed is often going to be in an extreme worthlessness, he will think he has no value, which will cause this desire to disappear. We will observe loss of pleasure, loss of motivation, even for things he loves very much“.

Clinical diagnosis of depression can be made when symptoms persist for more than two weeks. Finally, the psychologist recommends being particularly vigilant with the suicidal scenario. From the moment a teenager describes how he plans to end his life, there is a real risk that he will take action. “When the child says” I want to kill myself “, it is not a suicidal scenario. On the other hand, if he expresses, for example, that he wants to take a lot of medicine [les médicaments étant la méthode de tentative de suicide des adolescents la plus fréquente selon les chiffres en France, ndlr], it is one. Parents must act quickly “, underlines Aline Nativel Id Hammou.

Communicate with their adolescent can be difficult for parents, and especially when he suffers from depression. There is withdrawal, but also the fear of adults to approach this complicated subject. However, talking to him is necessary. To open the contact, Aline Nativel Id Hamou advises avoid behaving like an inspector“.” We can understand the parents’ anxiety and anxiety but, unfortunately, this type of attitude will lead more to withdrawal “. Our psychologist rather recommends gravitate around the teenager. “With a teenager, it’s better to turn around him, try to relight everything that is related to his areas of interest. We can reach out to him as much as possible, but without getting into it. time”, says the psychologist. It also highlights an important fact: “When a person is depressed, he does not intentionally not want to do things, not to show great interest. He really has a loss of vital momentum, it is not laziness”.

Before you can help your teenager, you need to know the cause (s) of your depression.We can go back a few weeks, find out if the teenager has experienced something in particular“It can indeed be a depression linked to a school phobia, a breakup in love, tense friendly relations or a rejection of his comrades …”In this case, it can be a reactive depressed state, which is a normal phenomenon. Often the triggers are not far away“, says Aline Nativel Id Hammou.

Parents must also listen to their child. “Many adults and parents find it hard to hear, to listen to the story of a teenager, whether it is about their questions related to their body, their sexuality and their relationship with others, or even their grief. love. You shouldn’t blame the parents for that: you can’t be comfortable on all subjects, especially when it comes to your own child. I recommend working with this open-mindedness so as not to put a cover on the teenager’s emotions. Listening to him, taking a step back to find out what he needs and not what we, as adults, are good for “, underlines the psychologist.

Finally, do not hesitate to push the door of a psychiatrist’s office or the attending physician. “Parents often wait too long. You have to try to go before your child has suicidal thoughts”, advise the specialist who recommends do not wait more than three weeks.There is a risk of falling into a depressive disorder if the symptoms are persistent beyond fifteen days “, says our expert.

Going to see a psychologist or psychiatrist often has a negative aspect for adolescents. It is common for them to associate seeing a specialist with madness, or other mental disorders. “For your child to agree to go to a psychologist, you must always be in the proposal, not in the imposition. You can enhance the image of the specialist, show him that you are in a dynamic of positive approach. Prefer terms like “we can try“, and reassure him by stressing that, if the first shrink he is going to see does not suit him, he can completely change it”, says Aline Nativel Id Hammou. Suggest to his teenager to choose his own psychologist can also help, because he becomes an actor in the process. Parents should not hesitate to also explain that they do not know what to do about his condition. “This is something that we rarely think about, but recognizing that even if we are there for him, we feel overwhelmed and that we do not have all the keys to help him, it can help the child”, insists our expert. Many teens don’t want to see a shrink, nor do they want to take depression medication. Parents can remind them that it is not systematic and that, if the psychiatrist thinks it is necessary, it is not dangerous for them, that it is only to help them.

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