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HealthInfo Canterbury

Understanding depression in youth & teens

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.

Young people are often not good at expressing how they feel. So, depression in young people can show itself in a variety of ways. They may show their low mood by being angry or irritable or by withdrawing from activities. They may also have sleep problems or physical complaints such as headaches and sore stomachs.

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

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

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.

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...

There are lots of things you can do to support a young person with depression. See the ideas on the next page.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Supporting a young person with depression

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by the Child, Adolescent and Family (CAF) Service, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed April 2020.


See also:

Depression in youth & teens

Support after a suicide attempt (for family & friends)

Page reference: 329763

Review key: HIDPY-49622