The most common mental illnesses in children and teens are mood disorders. These illnesses can range from mild mood swings to severe bouts of depression involving suicidal ideation and behavior.
Approximately 1% of children are affected at preschool age and while 2% occur at school age. The risk of developing mood disorders increases exponentially with age; adolescence is the stage in which up to 10% develop depression, especially between the ages of 13 and 17. (1)
How Does Depression Manifest in Teens?
In children and teens, the origin of depression is associated in most cases with other disorders, such as anxiety, body dysmorphic disorders, attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), among others.
Symptoms of Depression in teens
Unlike adults, depression can appear with symptoms associated with different stages of the child's development. This makes early diagnosis difficult and therefore delays treatment. Regarding the recognition of symptoms, the differentiation between the emotional patterns and the typical behavior during the development of adolescents plays an important role. (2)
Symptoms of depression in teens (13-18 years):
Difficulty concentrating and poor school performance
Psychosomatic complaints such as headache, abdominal pain, fever
When the feelings of sadness and fear take control of the lives of adolescents, they feel very overwhelmed, to the point of looking for alternatives such as suicide in an attempt to get away from the situations that affect them.
Suicidal Risk in Teens
Suicide attempts in children are rare; however, attempts and completed suicides in adolescents from 12 are becoming more and more frequent. In addition, it is essential to remember those suicidal thoughts are a symptom of depression. In fact, in depressed adolescents, there is a 20 times greater risk of suicidal behavior (suicide attempt / completed suicide).
Male adolescents are three times more likely to die by suicide than girls, while girls and young women are the main groups at risk for suicide attempts. In addition to mental illness, a previous suicide attempt, experiences with this topic among friends and family, and adverse life events are other risk factors for suicide. Suicide must always be taken seriously and addressed. (3)
How to Detect Depression and Suicidal Risk in Adolescents?
A doctor or psychotherapist should always make the diagnosis. The symptoms of depression are part of the adolescent's normal development: being irritable or withdrawn, bored or melancholy, dissatisfied with himself and with the world. Therefore, when making a diagnosis, it is essential to pay attention to age-dependent characteristics. In addition to ensuring a reliable diagnosis, parents, teachers, educators, and other caregivers are also included in the assessment.
How is depression in teens treated?
Treatment is usually outpatient and may include the following components:
Age and developmentally appropriate education of the child/adolescent and parents about the disease,
Psychotherapy with the participation of family and other caregivers, if medication therapy is necessary.
Family interventions (including family therapy, if applicable).
Adolescents with suicidal risk should be constantly monitored and placed in specialized centers if necessary.
Teens can find information on coping at
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The blog is written by :
Aloha McGregor, APC, CCHt, NCC
Therapist & Assistant Clinical Director