Why Every Parent Needs to Talk to Their Daughters About Depression

Talk to your daughter about the dangers of depression.
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Depression is on the rise among teens—especially teen girls. But most girls aren’t getting the treatment they need.

There’s still a stigma attached to mental health that makes it a taboo subject for some parents. Other parents lack knowledge about depression or simply struggle to know how to bring up the subject.

The Rates of Depression Among Teens

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report rates of clinical depression have grown by 37 percent from 2004 to 2014 among teenagers.

While depression rates are also increasing for some older populations, it’s not as sharp of an increase compared to adolescents.

Approximately 11 percent of teenagers experience depression in any given year. In girls, that number climbs to 17.3 percent.

Untreated depression can have lethal consequences. Suicide ranks as the number two cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24.

Why Teen Girls Are More Likely to Grow Depressed

There isn’t a clear reason why there has been such a dramatic rise in depression among teen girls. Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suspect it may be due to a greater degree of depression risk factors.

Girls may be more susceptible to cyberbullying, for example. Studies show girls use smartphones more frequently and intensely than teenage boys. And problematic mobile phone use has been linked to depression.

In a 2014 study published in Clinical Psychological Science, researchers discovered teenage girls were at a higher risk of depression than boys because of the way girls are socialized.

They may experience more disagreements with friends and there may be hostility among their peers.

They may also be encouraged to talk to their friends about their problems more. But rather than find solutions, their ongoing discussions about their problems may cause them to ruminate on the bad things in life.

How to Talk to Your Daughter

Although it’s important to be aware of the signs of depression in any teenager, it’s especially important to be on the lookout in your daughter. It’s also important to talk to your daughter about depression.

Teenage girls may not recognize that they’re depressed. Instead, they may experience physical symptoms, such as stomachaches or headaches. Or she may report feeling tired all the time and you might see increased irritability.

She also might not know how to tell you she’s having a hard time. But if you strike up conversations about depression first, she may feel more compelled to talk.

Here are a few ways you might strike up a conversation about your teen’s mental health:

  • Ask about her mood. Bring up the subject of your teen’s mood sometimes. Just make sure you do it in a kind and loving way. Rather than say, “You’re so moody,” ask, “Are you doing OK?” Make it clear that she can talk to you about being sad or angry or whatever other feelings she might be experiencing.
  • Tell her you’re willing to take her to see a therapist. Most teens aren’t comfortable asking their parents to talk to a mental health professional—and many of them wouldn’t recognize that it’s a need or even an option. Be willing to bring it up first and tell her you’re willing to make an appointment if she ever thinks that might be helpful.
  • Encourage her to talk to her doctor. During check-ups give your teen time to talk to the doctor alone. Encourage her to talk about any physical or health-related questions or concerns she might have.
  • Point out times when you’ve struggled. If you’ve ever struggled with depression or other mental health issues, be open about it with your teen. Just make sure you don’t compare your life to your teen’s issues. Saying something like, “Oh you think you have it bad? Listen to what happened to me,” will only invalidate your teen’s struggles.
  • Discuss whether she thinks any of her peers are depressed. Ask your teen if she thinks other kids at school or any of her friends are struggling with depression. She might be more willing to open up about issues when she’s talking about other people, rather than herself.
  • Bring up news stories about mental health. Talk about stories you see in the news that might be about cyberbullying, depression, or suicide. Ask what your teen thinks about those stories and discuss how those issues can be addressed in a healthy way.
  • Ask her what she would do if she was depressed. Make sure your teen has a plan in place for what she could do if she felt depressed. Discuss who she could talk to and where you could turn for help.

Seek Help for Your Teen

If you think your teen is depressed, talk to her about it. Schedule an appointment with her doctor to talk about your concerns as well. Her doctor may refer her to a mental health professional for further evaluation and treatment.

Depression can be very treatable in teens. Talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both could help your teen start feeling better soon.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Suicide Statistics

Hamilton JL, Stange JP, Abramson LY, Alloy LB. Stress and the Development of Cognitive Vulnerabilities to Depression Explain Sex Differences in Depressive Symptoms During Adolescence. Clinical Psychological Science. 2014;3(5):702-714.

Mojtabai R, Olfson M, Han B. National Trends in the Prevalence and Treatment of Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults. Pediatrics. 2016;138(6). 

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