Signs of Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

Director of Public Education and national trainer for Mental Health First Aid, Bryan Gibb, shares helpful warning signs and symptoms you should pay attention to in your teen.

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Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Teens


Sadness or hopelessness

Irritability, anger, or hostility

Tearfulness or frequent crying

Withdrawal from friends and family

Loss of interest in activities

Changes in eating and sleeping habits

Restlessness and agitation

Feelings of worthlessness and guilt

Lack of enthusiasm and motivation

Fatigue or lack of energy

Difficulty concentrating

Thoughts of death or suicide

If you’re unsure if an adolescent in your life is depressed or just being a teenager, consider how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how different the teen is acting from his or her usual self. While some “growing pains” are to be expected as teenagers grapple with the challenges of growing up, dramatic, long-lasting changes in personality, mood, or behavior are red flags of a deeper problem.


Effects of Teen Depression

Problems at school. Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.

Running away. Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away. Such attempts are usually a cry for help.

Drug and alcohol abuse. Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to “self-medicate” their depression. Unfortunately, substance abuse only makes things worse.

Low self-esteem. Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and unworthiness.

Internet addiction. Teens may go online to escape their problems, but excessive computer use only increases their isolation, making them more depressed.

Reckless behavior. Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, out-of-control drinking, and unsafe sex.

Violence. Some depressed teens — usually boys who are the victims of bullying — become violent. As in the case of the Columbine and Newtown school massacres, self-hatred and a wish to die can erupt into violence and homicidal rage.


Suicide Warning Signs in Teenagers

Talking or joking about committing suicide

Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out.”

Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”)

Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide

Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury

Giving away prized possessions

Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time

Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves