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Supporting a Young Person with Depression and/or in Crisis

Although it is upsetting to see a young person with depression or in crisis, it is important to remember that everyone experiences tough times and that young people need to be encouraged and supported to find helpful, adaptive and safe ways to cope with their thoughts and feelings.

Key Signs and Symptoms

  • Low mood/ mood fluctuation/ tearfulness
  • Anxiety/ agitation/ increased reassurance seeking
  • Confused or muddled thinking, difficulties concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Self-doubt and loss of self-esteem
  • Loss of motivation and energy
  • Lack of patience or irritability
  • More withdrawn/ isolating self from friends or family
  • School refusal/ deterioration in academic performance
  • Struggles to complete usual daily functioning tasks
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Feeling hopeless, not “seeing the point” in anything
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling guilty, overwhelmed or responsible for things that are not solely their responsibility
  • Fear about the future
  • Self-harm or thoughts about ending their life
  • Becoming more withdrawn
  • Uncommunicative or difficulties making decisions

Depression can also result in physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach and digestive upset
  • Change of appetite (over or undereating)
  • Changes to sleep patterns (over sleeping or insomnia)
  • Pain without specific reason
  • Fatigue/ loss of energy or highly agitated

Top tips on how to approach a young person you have concerns about

  • Stay calm yourself
  • Find time; don’t rush the conversation
  • Be prepared for a young person to deny or play down a difficulty
  • Be prepared to listen, acknowledge and validate a young person’s emotions and thoughts
  • Let the young person know you want to understand, help and support
  • If your child does not want to talk, see if they will write you a note, email or text message about how they feel
  • Ask if they would rather speak to someone else (e.g., a GP, school counsellor or helpline)
  • Try to think together of ways to handle strong feelings that don’t involve risk behaviour. Make a mini-crisis plan
  • Help them think through their problems and see possible solutions
  • Encourage them to think about the long view and how things may change in the future

IF A YOUNG PERSON HAS TAKEN AN OVERDOSE THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY AND YOU MUST SEEK URGENT MEDICAL ASSISTANCE. CALL 999 IN CASE OF EMERGENCY

Strategies for supporting a young person with depression

  • Try to keep a routine with activities in the morning, afternoon and evening even if these are small or simple tasks.
  • Encourage young people to look after themselves by eating well, exercising, sleeping, going out and not self-medicating through alcohol, drugs, nicotine or caffeine
  • Help them identify hobbies, interacts and activities outside of education
  • Break down goals into small steps. Ask how you can support or help them achieve these

Where to go for more support/advice