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Overview of depression in teens & young adults

Tirohanga whānui ki te pāpōuri ki ngā taiohi me rangatahi


At times, suicide might seem like a solution to depression. If you or a friend is considering acting on suicidal thoughts and needs help, phone the Depression Helpline on 0800‑111‑757 or txt 4202 (available 24/7). You can also phone Youthline 0800‑37-66-33 or txt 234 (available 24/7). Or you can contact your local mental health crisis team:

One in five rangatahi (young people) is affected by a mental health problem.

Depression is the most common mental health problem. It often begins in adolescence or early adulthood.

Depression is different from day-to-day sadness. It is normal to feel sad sometimes in response to hard situations in life. Depression is when the sadness takes over and does not go away.

Depression can be a serious illness. You might find it hard to do everyday things like going to school or work or seeing friends. You might stop wanting to do things you usually enjoy. Sometimes being depressed can make you irritable or angry.

You can read more about the symptoms of depression. You may also like to try this online test for depression.

Quite often the signs of depression are overlooked in rangatahi as they are thought to be "just part of growing up". Many rangatahi miss out on help because of this.

Treating depression in teens & young adults

Depression is much easier to fix if it is dealt with quickly. It helps to understand what causes it so you can find ways to get through. A combination of self-care and medical or psychological treatment helps most people.

Your general practice team is a good place to start if you think you or someone you love might have depression.

You might have to try a range of things before you start feeling better. You will be able to do some things for yourself. But you might need some extra help from your general practice team, therapists or other health professionals.


If other therapies are not working, your doctor may give you antidepressant medications.

Antidepressants need to be carefully monitored in rangatahi. This is because they can cause depression to get worse, especially when first started.

You can read more about antidepressants.

Specialist therapists

Child, Adolescent and Family Community Services is a specialist service for rangatahi who are 13 to 17 years old (or 18 years old if still at school) with moderate to severe mental illness, and their whānau (families). They provide consultation services for primary care, education and welfare services and other community agencies that work with rangatahi. The service can also access the Youth Day Programme, Youth Inpatient Unit and a respite facility.


Professionals such as your school counsellor, family doctor and so on, must by law respect your wish for confidentiality except where there is a concern you might be at risk, for example of suicide or serious harm.

They will also strongly recommend that you have a support person at appointments. When you are unwell, you need support, and it is useful to have another set of ears to hear what help is suggested. At your first appointment, it is best to openly discuss the issue of who you want to know and what you want them to know.

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On the next page: Self-care for depression in youth & teens

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2023. Last updated January 2024.


Page reference: 496685

Review key: HIDPY-49622