How to Prevent Teen Depression

Teen depression cannot always be prevented, but there are some things that teens and their families can do to help reduce the chances of an episode of depression in a teen who is at risk.

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. Be aware of the risk factors for teen depression, especially:

  • 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 exerciseearlier in the day, not just before 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.
  • 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.

If you are the parent of a teen who suffers from or is at risk for depression, there are things you can do to help your teen have a positive environment and be less likely to experience an episode of depression:

  • If you suffer from depression or feel overwhelmed, seek counseling for yourself. This will set a good example and help prevent occurrences of depression in other family members.
  • Be firm but calm and fair in disciplining your teen; harsh discipline practices, especially during or just after a depressive episode, may trigger or enhance depression.
  • Allow time for normal grieving after a loss, but if recovery does not occur, seek counseling for your teen.
  • Encourage your teen to exercise, be involved in some type of positive activity, get enough sleep, eat right, and avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • Talk to your teen and let him or her know you care and will listen to his or her problems.

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

Teen Depression Prevention Sources:

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