Depression and Low Mood

What is Depression?

While it’s common for people to say that they feel ‘depressed’ when they are upset or sad, true depression is when your low mood starts to stop you from doing things and enjoying the things you used to enjoy for a longer period of time. In young people, depression may not be the same as in adults and might show itself as tiredness, disrupted sleep,or lack of motivation and often also makes you feel anxious and overwhelmed.
If you’re a parent worried about your child, we’ve listed the best accurate information sites, and suggestions for resources to help you support your child here.
Other useful pages might include counselling, anxiety or helplines

For Parents and Caregivers

Realising your child is unhappy is upsetting and sometimes it’s not easy to know what might be considered typical mood swings at this age. Of course, most of us feel sad sometimes. Depression is when such feelings last a long time and get in the way of everyday life.

Low mood may be triggered because of circumstances (such as bullying, bereavement, or abuse) but it can also develop for no obvious reason. Some young people turn to drugs or alcohol to help with their feelings, others may slip into self-harm or disordered eating. We’ve pulled together some of the most useful resources on depression and low mood here and in other sections. Some will be better for younger teens, and some for young adults.

How can you tell the difference between teenage mood swings and more worrying stress and low mood?

Young people are not often prescribed any medication under the age of 18 years, but there are ways to tackle depression without medication. The most common helpful treatment for low mood is counselling and helping them find what works for them when they feel down.

It’s also easy to forget how important sleep, good food, exercise, nature and company are for our mental health and when we feel sad or anxious, those things often fall by the wayside (see below for a video on this). Depending on their age, young people might also like to try mindfulness, journalling, creative projects or getting more active and more outdoors – all shown to be mood boosters.

See our mood-boosters and stressbusters page for ideas

Admission to an inpatient unit would be unusual, but if you are facing this possibility see the links below.
Many people who feel low or sad, also feel anxious and vice-versa, so there may be more useful links under Anxiety.

Mental health professionals advise that the most important thing you can do is just be there as much as you can for your child and keep telling them they are loved. You may not be able to ‘fix’ it ‘ for them even though you very much want to, but you can support them to get better and help them feel hopeful for the future. Read some of the stories and blogs below about other families who have been through severe clinical depression and how they coped.

The Childline video at the bottom of this page explains how depression might feel in terms that are understandable and how looking at the Childline website can be helpful. (Reminder- Childline is for young people up to age 19 years)

More Resources for Parents and Carers


For Young People

How do I know if I have Depression and what can I do about it?

If depression doesn’t get better


Books for Young People


  • Moodtools A free App for managing depression with a mood tracker, videos, meditations and more. A sister App to the popular FearTools for anxiety.
  • Headspace for meditation



6 things to cure depression.
This US video is a lively discussion about some of the things you can do to help depression backed up with scientific evidence e.g. the powerful effect of exercise on mood. It also promotes Vitamin D, sunlight, sleep, fish oils and social connections.
“A great video to really bring home how essential self-care is for mood ” (Parent)

Feeling unhappy, sad or depressed? Aimed at young people this video explains how low mood feels at its worst and how opening up and talking to people can help.