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Self-care for depression in teens & young adults

Te whakaora ake i te pāpōuri ki ngā taiohi me rangatahi

There are lots of things you can do to get better. It can be hard to ask for help but keeping it to yourself can only make it worse. Like any illness, the sooner you get help, the sooner you will get better.

Start by talking to someone who you know cares about you and who you can trust. For example, a parent, school counsellor, doctor, friend, teacher or whānau (family) member.

There a lots of things you can do to help with depression.

Keep moving

Being physically active can make you feel better. Regular physical activity is as effective as medication in treating mild to moderate depression. Starting to be more active can be daunting when you're suffering from depression. Start small and think about giving yourself a plan to stick to. Any activity helps such as going for a walk or playing a sport.

Sleep well

Despite your best efforts, depression can make it hard to sleep well. It helps to get to bed at a reasonable hour and to minimise distractions such as using electronic devices in bed. See Sleep advice for teens.

Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs

It can be tempting to use alcohol or recreational drugs to help with symptoms of depression. In the long term, alcohol and drugs will make your mood worse or cause more problems to develop. Sometimes, it is hard to stop using alcohol or drugs without some professional help. If this is your situation, talk to your general practice team about drug and alcohol counselling or contact the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800-787-797.

Eat well

Depression can affect how much or what kinds of food you want to eat. Eating well can improve your mood and wellbeing. For a range of healthy eating resources and recipes, see Meal planning & recipes.

Stay social

Staying connected to friends and family will help you recover from depression. Even a small amount of social contact daily is enough, until you are ready for more. Get involved in something that feels meaningful to you, whether it is through your school, a sport, your church or marae or a community project.

Remember that connecting through social media can be harmful to your mental health if not controlled. See Have a healthy social media life.

Mindfulness and relaxation

If your are struggling with anxiety, you could try mindfulness or guided meditation. This internet-based programme can help with anxiety.


Use online and phone services for help. These include:

On the next page: Understanding depression in teens & young adults

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2023.


Page reference: 49624

Review key: HIDPY-49622