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Self-care for depression in youth & teens

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 family member.

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

Keep moving

Being physically active in a way you enjoy can make you feel better. Regular exercise 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. You can find more tips for sleeping better on the Lowdown.

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's hard to stop using alcohol or drugs without some professional help. If this is your situation, talk to your GP about drug and alcohol counselling, or contact the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800-787-797.

Eat well

Eating well helps your brain recover from depression. For a range of healthy eating resources and recipes, see this page.

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're ready for more. Get involved in something that feels meaningful to you, whether it’s through your school, a sport, your church or your marae or a community project.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness may also be helpful. It's a mental discipline that helps connect you to the here-and-now and regain control. The Smiling Mind app is an excellent free resource to get you started with mindfulness.

Other ideas

The Lowdown page Staying strong has more ideas about how to help yourself.

Phone lines

Use online and phone services for help. These include:

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Getting help with depression in youth & teens

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed April 2020.

Page reference: 49624

Review key: HIDPY-49622