How to Identify Depression in Your Teen

How to Identify Depression in Your Teen

Post Date: Jan 19, 2022
Behavioral Health, Parent Support

A recent CDC survey found 41% of Montana high school students self-reported feelings of depression in 2020 – the highest number ever reported. Roughly 1 in 10 reported attempting suicide in the 12 months before taking the survey.

These numbers are horrifying, but probably not shocking. Teen mental health has long been an issue in Montana, and with the introduction of a pandemic and national unrest, it’s only gotten worse. If you’re the parent or guardian of a teenager, it’s more crucial than ever to understand early signs of depression so you can get help as soon as possible. Here are some signs your teen may be struggling with depression.

Signs to Look Out For

Signs of depression can range from mild—like tiredness, sadness, changes in appetite, and sleeping too little or too much—to severe, like self-harm or suicide.

You might also see changes in their emotions or the way they act. Emotional changes might include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger or grouchiness, worthlessness or guilt. They might include low self-esteem, or a lack of interest in activities they used to love. It could even lead to thoughts of death or suicide.

You might notice changes in their energy levels (being more tired or sleeping a lot more or less than normal). You might notice that they’re not doing well in school, and even moving slower or reacting more slowly, too. In other cases, teens can become agitated, pacing or wringing their hands. They might isolate themselves from friends, or you might notice signs that they’ve been using drugs or alcohol. You might notice self-harm like burning, cutting, or excessive piercings and tattoos. And they might struggle with plans of suicide or suicide attempts.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to get help.

First Step: Talk to Your Teen

Teens are known for moodiness, and hormonal changes can cause them to sleep more or lead to crying and angry outbursts. It can be hard to know what’s normal, and what might be a symptom of mental illness. The first thing you should do is talk to your child. Ask them how they’re doing and see how they’re managing challenges in their life. If they’re feeling overwhelmed and not able to cope, let them know that it’s okay to need help. Then, reach out to a local healthcare provider right away.

How to Get Help

Make an Appointment With Their Primary Care Provider

Getting your teen to their primary care provider is a great first step. Depression can coincide with physical issues. A physical exam can help you find out if that’s the case with your teen.

Ask Your Provider About Lab Work

Sometimes, blood work can tell you more than a physical exam alone. It can point to imbalances in hormones and other chemicals that might impact mood and mental health. This can help you find the most successful treatments.

Request a Referral to a Behavioral Health Specialist

The next step is to get connected with a behavioral health specialist. Behavioral health professionals like therapists, counselors and psychiatrists can help you get a diagnosis and carve a path toward healing. CHP’s behavioral health department can point you to the right professionals, with accessible ZOOM or in-person sessions.


Treatment varies depending on the case, ranging from individual or group therapy to prescription medication. Working with a medical professional is key to choosing the best treatment. Depression usually does not go away on its own without professional help. If it goes untreated, it can cause death.

Don’t let your teen’s mental state get to that point. For immediate emergency assistance if you fear you or someone you know might be suicidal, you can contact the national suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255 or call 911.

You can also reach out to your local CHP clinic in Bozeman, Belgrade, Livingston or West Yellowstone to make the first appointment if you suspect your teen might be dealing with depression. Affordable treatment for depression is here in your neighborhood – don’t wait to get started.