Teen Depression Prevention

Teen depression cannot always be prevented, but some things can help reduce the chances of an episode of depression in a teen who is at risk. Keep reading for information on teen depression prevention, and what you can do to help prevent teenage depression.

Some of the causes of depression in teenagers seem to be genetic, and those cannot be changed, but other triggers of teen depression can be avoided. Some of the risk factors for teen depression include:

  • A family or personal history of depression
  • A long-term illness or disability, whether physical or mental
  • Experiencing a trauma or loss, including abuse, divorce of parents, death of a loved one, or a break-up
  • Difficulties at home, at school, or with friends

If you are a teen who has suffered from depression, or who has other risk factors for teen depression, there are some things you can do to help prevent an episode of depression:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol – these can trigger depression.
  • Associate with friends who have positive goals, such as going to college, and/or are involved in positive activities.
  • Develop a good social support system with family members, teachers, and/or friends; some areas also have group therapy and support groups for people with depression and those who are at risk.
  • Learn healthy ways to deal with choices, stress, and life changes.
  • Get cognitive-behavioral therapy, which will help you to recognize if you have negative thought patterns and to change those patterns.
  • Take any medication prescribed to you as directed; consult with a doctor before stopping medication or trying alternative medications.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Get exercise, which helps manage stress and fight depression.
  • Get enough sleep; it helps to keep a regular schedule, avoid having distractions in the bedroom (such as homework or television), and exercise earlier in the day, not close to when you go to sleep.
  • Consider keeping a journal or finding other positive ways to deal with your emotions and notice any possible triggers for depression.
  • Allow time for normal grieving after a loss, but if recovery does not occur, seek counseling.
  • Avoid anything you know may trigger depression for you, including music, activities, people, or styles of dress and grooming that bring on feelings of depression.
  • Get help if you suffer from any other disorders, such as eating disorders, learning disabilities, or substance abuse problems.

Though seasonal depression is most common in adults who live in higher latitudes, it can also affect teens. Teens can fight seasonal depression by spending a few minutes outside each day, especially during the winter months, staying active, and using light therapy.

If you know a teen who suffers from or is at risk for depression, you can help the teen by:

  • Talking and listening to him or her
  • Encouraging him or her to be involved in positive activities and to take good care of him or herself
  • Being fair when dealing with or disciplining the teen
  • Setting a good example by taking good care of yourself and getting help if you feel depressed or overwhelmed.

Teens who avoid depression triggers can often prevent or reduce episodes of depression. Teens who suffer from episodes of depression should talk to a doctor or therapist to treat their depression, especially if they have teen suicide thoughts.

Teen Depression Prevention Sources:

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthfinder, “Parental Control Affects Teen’s Depression” [online]
  • WebMD.com, “Depression in Childhood and Adolescence” [online]
  • WebMD/The Cleveland Clinic “Seasonal Depression” [online]

Adolescent Depression Treatment

Teenage depression should be treated as soon as possible. See your local therapist to evaluate your teen and recommend the best treatment method for adolescent depression. Keep reading to learn about the available options in adolescent depression treatment.

Teen depression is a serious condition, but teens who suffer from depression can often be treated. Because teenage depression can disrupt a teen’s life, and increases a teen’s risk for suicide, it is important for teens to get treatment for their teen depression.

If you are a teen and suspect that you are suffering from depression, find an adult who will listen and help you get depression treatment. Teens with depression should see a doctor who can check for physical illnesses that cause some of the symptoms of teen depression, such as hypothyroidism or anemia. If a teen is diagnosed with depression, a doctor may suggest medications, refer the teen to a therapist, or both. It is important that the teen with depression is comfortable with whoever treats him or her.

Therapy is an important part of treating teen depression. Individual or group therapy can help teens with depression to:

  • Recognize and change the negative thoughts that may cause or trigger depression
  • Find better ways to solve problems
  • Learn better social and interpersonal skills

Family counseling or therapy is also beneficial in helping teens and their families understand and deal with teen depression.

Medications are commonly used to treat teen depression, though their long-term effects on teens are not well studied. The most common type of medication prescribed for teens is the SSRI fluoxetine, commonly known as Prozac. Other types of medications, including those normally prescribed for adults, may be tried for teens with depression as well. Antidepressant drugs do have some side-effects, sometimes including suicidal behavior, so it is important for friends and family to watch for the warning signs of suicide in a teen taking antidepressants, such as talking about death or suicide or giving away personal possessions. Doctors usually must use trial and error to find the right medication and dosages for a teen with depression.

A stay in the hospital may be necessary for a teen who is suicidal or experiencing hallucinations.

In severe cases, doctors may recommend alternative therapies, but the long-term effects of alternative treatments on teens are not always well researched, and may be serious; teens with depression and their parents should try to find out all they can about alternative treatments before trying them.

Some things that can help teens with depression treatment include:

  • Get help; don’t wait to see if depression will get better.
  • Attend scheduled therapy and do not stop taking medications or take alternative treatments without talking to your doctor.
  • Eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get enough sleep.
  • Participate in positive activities; even small activities like personal grooming help.
  • Keep a journal about how you feel to help yourself and your doctor or therapist determine triggers and effective treatments for your depression.
  • Consider having a no-suicide contract, either verbal or written.
  • Learn about teen depression. Know that you can feel better.
  • If you feel suicidal, tell someone and call 911 or a suicide hotline immediately.

Family and friends of teens with depression can help by encouraging the teens to take good care of themselves, letting the teens know that they have value, being patient and not telling a teen to “snap out of it”, and setting a good example by balancing their own lives. Always take suicide attempts and threats seriously.


If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call 911 or a suicide hotline, such as Samariteens Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-252-TEEN (8336), or 1-800-273-TALK.

Your local phonebook may also list suicide hotlines and clinics that offer free or discounted treatments for teen depression.

Treating Adolescent Depression Sources:

  • Kidhealth.org from the Nemours Foundation, “Understanding Depression” [online]
  • Norfolk District Attorney’s Office, “Depression” [online]
  • Center for Mental Health Services, SAMHSA, A Family Guide, Keeping Youth Mentally Healthy and Drug Free, “Depression Hurts” [online]
  • WebMD.com “Depression in Childhood and Adolescence” [online]