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Depression is a mood disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and is able to cope with daily activities, to the point where it drastically inhibits their ability to live a normal life. Most of us feel sad, lonely or a bit rundown at times, but if these feelings persist for longer than 2 weeks, that’s when it could be considered ‘depression’.


  • Roughly 5 in every 100 teenagers have what would be considered clinical depression.
  • 10% recover within the first 3 months, and 50% recover within the first year.
  • The number of young people aged 15 to 16 with depression nearly doubled between the 1980’s and 2000’s.

Signs and Symptoms

There are a number of different ways a person can behave when they’re experiencing depression:

  • Physical effects: Suddenly seeming tired all the time; persistent fatigue, not getting a good night’s sleep; oversleeping to compensate, overeating/loss of appetite resulting in weight gain/loss.
  • Psychological effects: Frequent self-criticism, pessimism, believing that other people see them negatively; using language such as “I’m a failure” or “I’ve let everyone down”; catastrophizing “things will never get better”; difficulty concentrating or remembering details.
  • Behavioural effects: Not wanting to see friends, isolating oneself; loss of interest in activities or hobbies previously enjoyed, feeling bored all the time/not looking forward to anything; letting school work slip when previously used to care about it; irritability or lack of patience, mood swings.

Most teenagers will display at least some of these symptoms, but if you notice they’re regularly displaying three or more, it’s important to take action as, if left untreated, it can lead to self-harm and, in the worst cases, attempts at suicide.

Treatment for Depression

First, recommend they pay a visit to their GP. They will give them an assessment and based on the results, prescribe either one or both of the following:

  • Talking Therapy – Speaking to a trained professional will give them an opportunity to look at their problems in a different way and explore what is causing them and how they can manage them more effectively. Young people often find it easier to talk to a stranger than their friends or family, allowing them to express how they’re feeling in a more open, honest way.
  • Popular forms of therapy include: Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Psychotherapy. These are available both privately and on the NHS; however, if going through the NHS, the waiting list can be anywhere from 3 to 6 months. Local charities such as Mind can sometimes be a bit quicker to offer talking therapy, so it’s worth exploring that option as well.
  • Medication – This can have great success in helping to relieve the symptoms of depression. For a lot of people, this can provide enough temporary relief to make the changes necessary in order to improve their situation to the point where medication is no longer required. However, medication can sometimes have unwanted side effects, and is not recommended as an initial treatment for most issues. It’s important to explore all other options first.

There are also a number of self-help strategies to encourage if someone is struggling with depression. These include:

  1. Growth mindset
  2. Social support
  3. Being present
  4. Practicing gratitude
  5. Diet/Exercise

Additionally, if you would like to know more, check out our section on “Five Ways to Wellbeing”.

Further Information

One of the largest mental health charities around. Offers extensive information and advice on a variety of mental health issues.
Tel: 0300 123 3393
Website: www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds
Offers free, confidential advice to any adult/parent worried about the mental health of a young person.
Tel: 0808 802 5544
Website: www.youngminds.org.uk

Talk Lines

Charity for the prevention of suicide in young people, offering confidential support.
Tel: 0800 068 41 41
Website: www.papyrus-uk.org

Free 24hr helpline for children and young people in the UK.
Tel: 0800 1111
Website: www.childline.org.uk