Depression Treatment in Your Teen: Care Instructions

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Overview

Depression is a mental health condition that can take the joy from your teen's life. Your teen may seem unhappy all the time and show less pleasure in things they used to enjoy. You may notice that your teen withdraws and no longer enjoys school or friends. Your teen may sleep more or less than usual. They may lose or gain weight. Teens with severe depression may see or hear things that aren't there (hallucinations). Or they may believe things that aren't true (delusions).

Neither you nor your teen should feel embarrassed or ashamed about depression. It's a common condition. It's not a character flaw. And it does not mean that your teen is a bad or weak person.

Depression can be treated. Your teen can get better. Medicines, counseling, and self-care can all help.

Follow-up care is a key part of your teen's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your teen is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your teen's test results and keep a list of the medicines your teen takes.

How can you care for your teen at home?

Counseling

  • Learn about counseling. Help your teen find a counselor who has experience helping other teens with depression.
  • Help your teen find the best type of counseling. One-on-one counseling, group counseling, or family counseling may all help your teen.
  • Help find a counselor that your teen can feel at ease with and trust.

Antidepressant medicines

  • If the doctor prescribed antidepressant medicines, have your teen take the medicines exactly as prescribed. Make sure your teen doesn't stop taking them. These medicines may need time to work. If your teen stops taking them too soon, the symptoms may come back or get worse.
  • Learn about antidepressants.
    • Antidepressants may increase the chance that your teen will think about or try suicide, especially in the first few weeks of use. If your teen is prescribed an antidepressant, learn the warning signs of suicide.
  • Help find the best antidepressant for your teen's needs. Your teen may have to try different antidepressants before finding the right one. If you have concerns about the medicine, or if your teen doesn't seem better in 3 weeks, talk to your doctor.
  • Watch for side effects. Stopping suddenly can make your teen feel tired, dizzy, or nervous. Many side effects are mild and go away on their own after a few weeks. Talk to your doctor if you think side effects are bothering your teen too much.
  • Do not let your teen suddenly stop taking antidepressants. This could be dangerous. Your doctor can help your teen slowly reduce the dose to prevent problems.

To help your teen manage depression

  • Learn as much about depression as you can.
  • Give your teen support and understanding. This is one of the most important things you can do to help your teen cope with depression.
  • If your teen is going to counseling, make sure that your teen goes to all appointments. If your doctor suggests family counseling, be sure you all go together.
  • Try to see that your teen eats a balanced diet. Whole grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and protein are part of a balanced diet.
  • Encourage your teen to get enough sleep. If your teen has problems, you can urge your teen to:
    • Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning.
    • Keep the bedroom quiet, dark, and cool at bedtime. You may need to remove the TV, computer, telephone, or electronic games from your teen's room to avoid problems with bedtime.
    • Manage their homework load. This can prevent the need to study all night before a test or stay up late to do homework.
  • Encourage your teen to get plenty of exercise every day.
  • See that your teen doesn't drink alcohol, use drugs, or take medicines that your doctor has not prescribed. They may interfere with your teen's treatment.
  • Work with your teen's doctor to create a safety plan. A plan covers warning signs of self-harm. And it lists coping strategies and trusted family, friends, and professionals your teen can reach out to if they have thoughts about hurting themselves.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If your teen talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Go to 988lifeline.org for more information or to chat online.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your teen may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your teen is thinking about suicide or is threatening suicide.
  • Your teen makes threats or attempts to harm themself or another person.
  • Your teen hears or sees things that aren't real.
  • Your teen thinks or speaks in a bizarre way that is not like your teen's usual behavior.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If your teen talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Go to 988lifeline.org for more information or to chat online.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your teen talks, reads, or draws about death. This may include writing suicide notes and talking about items that can cause harm, such as pills, knives, or guns.
  • Your teen buys guns or bullets or saves up medicines.
  • Your teen is drinking a lot of alcohol or using drugs.

Watch closely for changes in your teen's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • It's hard or getting harder for your teen to deal with school, a job, family, or friends.
  • You think treatment is not helping your teen or your teen is not getting better.
  • Your teen's symptoms get worse or your teen has new symptoms.
  • Your teen has problems with antidepressant medicines, such as side effects, or is thinking about stopping the medicine.
  • Your teen is having manic behavior. Your teen may have very high energy, need less sleep than normal, or show risky behavior such as abusing others verbally or physically.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter N374 in the search box to learn more about "Depression Treatment in Your Teen: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.