For Parents and Caregivers
Realising your child is unhappy is upsetting and sometimes it’s not easy to know what might be considered normal. 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.
It may happen 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 normal teenage mood swings and more worrying stress and low mood?
- Signs your child may be depressed This page discusses common signs of depression in children, some tips on talking to children about mood and when to see your GP.
- Warning signs of depression, suicidal thoughts, how to seek help from a GP, confidentiality and more
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 treatment for low mood is counselling and helping them find what works for them when they feel down. It’s 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. 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 self-help pages 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
- Helping your child with depression
- Understanding depression for parents
- Stories and videos about depression from young people and their families from around the UK Young people from different backgrounds describe how their low mood had affected their relationships with their families, what had helped and what hadn’t. A really useful read.
- Coping with longer-term and more severe depression See this link on helpforparents.org
- Coping with suicidal feelings
- Blame My Brain: the Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed. Not just about depression, this gives a really good insight into why teenagers struggle with many issues and gives ideas based on this about how parents can help. Teenagers have said they enjoyed reading this too! Highly rated.
- Can I Tell You About Depression? A Guide for Friends, Family and Professionals by Christopher Dowrick and Susan Martin
- Living with a Black Dog Matthew and Ainsley Johnstone – the companion guide to “I had a Black Dog” and just as cleverly written with advice well presented for those taking care of someone with depression while looking after yourself
- Teenage Depression – a CBT Guide for Parents Help your Child Beat their low mood. This is quite detailed but you can dip into the chapters that feel most relevant.
For Young People
How do I know if I have Depression and what can I do about it?
- How do I know if I have depression and what can I do about it? This links to a real-life story from Sarah, aged 15yrs.
- Depression is common and treatable. Find out more here and see the video below
- Being ready for the worst days This was written for young people during the pandemic and is useful at any time- essentially a plan to spot those days coming, what helps, what doesn’t and what you might plan to do if you feel really low.
- Blogs and expert advice on The Mix include “I got depression at University’, “My girlfriend/boyfriend has depression” and “could anything good come out of depression?
- Self-help booklets Mini booklets with techniques which you can adapt for yourself. A good way of starting to unpick problems and think about small steps forward.Highly recommended.
- Action For Happiness ideas for things you can do to improve your mood
- See also our self-help pages with helplines, more websites and a section for Students
If depression doesn’t get better
- Different types of depression, looking after yourself, treatments
- Are you looking after yourself? Remind yourself of basic self-care for depression with links to resources on mindfulness and raising self-esteem.
- Information about mental health medication
- What’s the science behind what makes us happy? Listen to the sometimes surprising research about what we think makes us happy and what actually does
- Some ideas for coping with negative thoughts
- Blog: how I deal with intrusive thoughts
- Help for suicidal thoughts
- How can I help my suicidal friend?
- Going into hospital – what is it like?
- Life on a psychiatric ward (true story)
- What to expect from counselling and how to access it
- Finding counselling in your area
- What is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and how does it work?
- AFC Crisis Messenger 24/7 staffed by trained counsellors
- Student Space for 24/7 online support, tips and student stories. Find more options on our student page
- Tellmi App is an award-winning app where you can chat with other people about what you’re going through. It’s fully moderated; posts are checked quickly so that everyone feels safe. Ages 11-25 years.
- Kooth online counselling and resources for children and young people. Can log in on a computer or smartphone and chat with a counsellor in the afternoons and evenings. There are also blogs and articles. Suitable from about 10+ years. Good for those who either don’t want or can’t afford face-to-face counselling. Free but you need to create a login for confidentiality.
Books for Young People
- I Had a Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone– This is a short book which is very cleverly illustrated with a clear message of symptoms, hope and how talking and seeking help really makes a difference
- Am I depressed and What Can I Do About It? by S Reynolds – a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) self-help guide for young people.
- 10 Minutes to Better Mental Health by Lee David And Debbie Brewin -a step-by-step guide using CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and meditation
- 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
- Wellbeing podcasts from the Mental Health Foundation include relaxation exercises.
- Oxford website has a series of podcasts about depression.
- NHS choices offer a range of audio downloads to help manage your mood
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.