Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

Depression in Teens

About 1 in 20 teenagers has depression. Treatment options and support are available.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health illness. A person with depression has changes in mood and activity level that impact overall day-to-day function.

Depression is not a sign of weakness or something you can “snap” out of. Because depression is a medical condition, treatment is usually needed to help you feel better.

How common is depression?

Depression in adolescence is common and often missed:

  • It is estimated that about 1 in 20 teenagers has depression.
  • Of those, only 30% will receive treatment.
  • Suicide, the most serious risk in depression, is the third leading cause of death in people ages 15 to 24.
  • If you think you may be depressed, please talk with your doctor.

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

If you are concerned that you may be depressed, it may be helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you find yourself feeling sad, irritable or empty?
  • Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy?
  • Have you withdrawn from family or friends?
  • Have you had any feelings of worthlessness or guilt?
  • Have your grades been getting worse?
  • Do you have trouble paying attention in class or remembering what you learned?
  • Do you feel restless or slowed down?
  • Do you feel more tired than usual? Has your sleep or appetite changed?
  • Have you had thoughts about death, dying or suicide?
  • Have you ever tried to harm yourself or others?

How is depression treated?

Treatment options may include therapy, medication or a combination of both.

What is therapy?

Therapy involves talking with a mental health specialist to learn new skills and ways to cope with your feelings.

What medications treat depression?

  • Your doctor may recommend an antidepressant. These can take up to six weeks to work.
  • Antidepressants can have side effects, but these are usually mild and may go away on their own.
  • Don’t stop taking your antidepressant without help from your doctor.
  • Treatments for depression are effective. People who get treated can live healthy and successful lives.

As a parent, what can I do to help my teen with depression?

Provide Support

  • Spend quality time with your teen and talk with him or her about feelings.
  • Listen with love and respect.
  • Encourage healthy behaviors and forming positive relationships with family, friends or trusted adults.

Provide Safety

  • Remove objects that could be used for self-harm, such as guns, knives and alcohol.
  • Know phone numbers and resources available to you, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.

Suicide prevention resources:

Still have questions? Come see us.

Our adolescent medicine team has special training to meet the unique needs of teens. We're here to help guide you and answer any questions you might have.

The information here is not intended to be nor should be used as a substitute for medical evaluation or treatment by a health care professional. This publication is for information purposes only and the reader assumes all associated risks.

Content experts: Pooja Purswani, M.D., Catherine Wysocka, M.D., and Jasmine Reese, M.D., M.P.H.

Sources:

  1. National Institute of Mental Health 
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics   
  3. Johns Hopkins Adolescent Depression Awareness Center