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HealthInfo Canterbury

Understanding depression in young people for parents

Low mood is common in young people in New Zealand. In 2012, there was a study of New Zealand high school students. It found that 38% of girls and 23% of boys had been down, or depressed, for at least two weeks in the last year. Twenty-one percent of girls and 10% of boys had thought seriously about suicide in the previous year.

What causes depression in young people?

Young people can have low mood for a range of reasons. These include relationship difficulties, stress and lifestyle imbalances.

Young people may make poor lifestyle choices that affect their mental wellbeing. For most young people with mood issues, lifestyle imbalances are an important part of why they feel unhappy.

Some young people are more prone to get low mood due to a family history of depression (genetics). These young people need to be aware of lifestyle choices that can make depression more likely for them.

Lifestyle imbalances usually go hand in hand with stress that young people find overwhelming. Ongoing stress or relationship difficulties can leave them feeling helpless and hopeless. They lack the power and the skills to work out these issues and find solutions.

Medications usually don't help with these types of mood issues.

You can find information about some of the causes of stress in young people on the following pages:


Other websites

It can be difficult to appreciate how much of an impact these things might be having on your teenager's mood. You might be surprised to discover how out of balance their life has become due to poor decision making in managing their life. Have you ever considered how you might feel if you lived in your teenager's shoes for a few days?

Try this little experiment at home and see how it makes you feel.

Are you feeling irritable yet? If not, repeat three times. And if that doesn't work...

What can I do to help?

There is a lot you can do to support your young person to better manage the difficulties they find themselves in. You can also reinforce good practices that improve their wellbeing. This might create conflict at first, especially if they are used to making their own choices. They may also argue that, "all my friends live like this." But the conflict may be unavoidable as you help them get their lifestyles back on track. The fact that these lifestyles are common among young people, may be one of the reasons why low mood is so common.

Making sure they go to bed at a reasonable time, and without a device in their room will help. Restricting internet access to times you are happy with will give them a chance to have a digital detox. You could do this by removing the wireless router, turning it off at certain times of the day, or changing the password daily. Doing this yourself may also improve your own wellbeing. It will also make your young person aware that you are committed to a healthy lifestyle as well.

Make sure they spend time outside being active every day. Spend good one-on-one time with them, and be available when they want to talk. Work with them to set good boundaries around alcohol and drug use.

You can find more information about good practices to improve your young person's wellbeing on the following pages:



Other websites

It's important that you talk to your young person about things that might be weighing them down. Talking to you or other supportive adults might help them feel less alone. It might give them ideas about how to cope with their stress better. It might also lead to getting further help from a professional like a counsellor or family therapist.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by the Child, Adolescent and Family (CAF) Service, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed December 2016.


See also:

Depression in youth & teens

Support after a suicide attempt (for family & friends)

Page reference: 329763

Review key: HIDPY-49622