Decoding Teenage Depression

Remember when you were a teenager?  Sometimes the smallest thing could upset you. Back then, it may have felt like the world was going to end or that you’d never get past a problem.

Teenagers today are going through those similar emotions, and it can leave them feeling out of control. It’s as if they’re on a roller coaster of “ups” when they’re happy and “downs” during frustrating or unhappy periods. It’s important to realize that these varying emotions or moods are totally normal, and that everyone experiences them. But it’s also key to remember that not everyone experiences moods and changes
in the same way.

How do I know if the “downs” are something more serious?

When your teens are experiencing situations or problems which trigger feelings of depression, extreme desperation or powerlessness, it can be concerning for parents. If you’re worried that these feelings may be leading to something more serious, like thoughts of suicide, there are some warning signs you can look for.

writing or talking about suicide (i.e. "I want to die", "I hate myself", "There is no point to living")

preoccupation with death and dying

giving away meaningful belongings

loss of interest in friends, school or activities previously enjoyed

decreased work or academic performance

increased and unnecessary risk taking

heavy use of alcohol or drugs

neglect in hygiene or personal appearance

weight or appetite change

sleeplessness or sleepiness

low self esteem and a lack of response to praise

expressing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

How can I help?

It’s important to remember that discussing suicide will not increase the risk of suicide. If you’re concerned that someone you know is thinking of suicide, there are ways you can provide support, for instance:

talk to them about suicide and remember that suicide attempts aren't just attention seeking strategies — they reflect genuine inner pain and turmoil and should be taken seriously

talk to them about what’s bothering them – suicidal thoughts result from an inability to see other options

ask them directly if they are contemplating suicide — if the answer is yes, find out if that person has a method and a plan in mind and if so, they should be considered at high risk and you should seek help immediately

people having suicidal thoughts often feel they are a burden, so it's important to let them know they are loved and cared for, and how devastating their loss would be to others

let the person know that you love or care about them and you are here for them

tell them it is okay to feel sad and that you feel sad sometimes also

tell them that you will help them through this and you will work on this together

Go to the next page to find out how to talk with your teen...

What if this is my child?

Talk directly to them about suicide:

allow your child to do the talking, don’t interrupt

don’t try to fill all of the silences in the conversation, the silences might result in
the child opening up more

don’t rush the conversation, be calm

explain the importance they hold in your life and what it would mean if they were not around

avoid phrases or words that might shame your child e.g. “what do you have to be depressed about you get everything you want”

talk about different ways to resolve their feelings or the issues they are having

make a plan with the child (they must be the one who agrees with the plan), set a date and time to talk again, let them know that you can talk anytime between now and then also

highlight the contributions they have made to your family as well as to others around them

  try to get them involved in some new things that will help them feel connected and relevant
- look for interests they may have and opportunities for them to grow those interests

Help is available

Kids and teens contact Kids Help Phone’s professional counsellors about many different issues, including suicide. In fact last year alone, 3% of contacts to Kids Help Phone were about suicide.

If you know a young person who may need to talk to someone about suicide, they can contact a Kids Help Phone counsellor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The service is free to use, anonymous and confidential at 1-800-668-6868 or online at



For the past two decades, Kids Help Phone has been at the forefront in providing help and hope through its phone and web counseling services, earning the respect and trust of kids across Canada. When young people feel like there’s nowhere to turn, when parents, schools and social services are unavailable, closed, backlogged or simply not accessible for any reason, Kids Help Phone is there.

Last year, Kids Help Phone counselors connected with kids in almost 3,000 Canadian communities more than 2.2 million times. By continuing to reach out to kids in meaningful and innovative ways, Kids Help Phone will remain a trusted part of kids’ lives for many years to come.