6 Ways Parents Can Prevent Teenage Depression

Teach your teen how to be mentally healthy.
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Adolescence is a peak time for depression to take hold. And while there some factors that play a role in mental illness that are out of a teen’s control – like genetics, biology, and traumatic life experiences -- there are many other factors that are within a teen’s control.

A new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders identified specific ways adults can help teens stay mentally healthy.

Based on surveys with mental health experts and previous research literature, the authors created a list of strategies that can prevent depression in teenagers.

The list of suggestions fall into these six categories:

1. Teach Healthy Coping Skills

Teens need skills to deal with everyday life problems in a healthy manner. Teens who can deal with uncomfortable emotions—like anxiety, fear, and sadness—are less likely to grow depressed. Healthy coping skills may include talking to a friend, active problem-solving, and engaging in relaxation activities.

Teens who struggle to cope with discomfort are more likely to turn unhealthy coping strategies, such as excessive electronics use, self-harm, or drugs and alcohol. Although these coping skills may provide short-term temporary relief, they’re likely to contribute to long-term mental health problems.

2. Teach Your Teen Effective Communication Skills

Healthy communication can prevent a lot of problems.

Teach your teen assertiveness skills and help negotiation skills. Teens who can communicate in a respectful manner, and those can avoid putting others down are more likely to have successful outcomes. Encourage your teen to speak up and seek help from a trusted friend or adult when necessary.

3. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy habits go a long way to promoting good mental health.

Encourage your teen to eat well-balanced meals and to get plenty of sleep. Make physical activity a priority as there is a lot of research that shows exercise can help prevent and reduce depression.

Limit your teen’s screen time. Excessive electronics use can wreak havoc on your teen’s well-being. Additionally, make sure your teen is well-informed about the dangers of unhealthy behavior, like unprotected sexual activity, smoking, drinking, and other risky behavior.

4. Get Your Teen Involved in Fun Activities

Whether your teen likes to play board games with friends, or he really likes playing sports, fun activities can boost your teen’s mood and keep depressive symptoms at bay. Get your teen involved in some structured extra-curricular activities, but avoid overscheduling your teen. Instead, let your teen experiment with a variety of activities to help him identify his talents and passions.

5. Cultivate a Positive Self-View

The adolescent years can be a tumultuous time in terms of self-image. Insecure teens are more likely to struggle with mental health issues. Take steps to boost your teen’s confidence and help your teen develop a healthy body image.

6. Facilitate Healthy Relationships

Healthy relationships with friends and family are vital to a teen’s mental health.

It’s healthy for teens to spend a lot of time with friends, as friends can play a large role in their identity formation. Teens who are involved in romantic relationships also need to be able to respect a partner’s physical and emotional space.

While healthy relationships reduce a teen’s risk of depression, unhealthy relationships increase the risk. If your teen is hanging out with the wrong crowd, get involved by taking steps to limit unsupervised contact with unhealthy people.


Cairns, K., Yap, M., Reavley, N. & Jorm, A. (2015). Identifying prevention strategies for adolescents to reduce their risk of depression: A Delphi consensus study. Journal of Affective Disorders. 183, pages 229-238.