Are you just not feeling like yourself these days? Is getting up to go to school or work getting tougher and tougher?

Would you rather stay home and sleep, listen to music, or just be alone than hang out with your friends?

Do you feel sometimes that no one, not even your best friend or partner understands you?

The Signs

While any of this could be a normal part of life, it could also be a sign that you’re depressed because it means you need help. But it can be a bit tricky, as the symptoms can vary a lot.

Here’s a list of some of the most common ones:

  • You feel sad or down most of the time, even if there’s no reason for it.
  • You feel tired all the time and either sleep more than usual or have trouble sleeping at all.
  • You’re eating a lot more or lot less than usual and may even notice changes in your weight.
  • You feel worthless or guilty.
  • You have trouble concentrating.
  • Activities that used to be fun, like seeing your friends, just seems like a drag.
  • You feel negative about everything or you just can’t bring yourself to care about anything.
  • You feel irritable, angry, or anxious much of the time.
  • You feel the need to pull away from family and friends.
  • You have regular thoughts of death or suicide.
  • You feel kind of unwell most of the time, maybe dealing with a lot of headaches, stomach aches, or other aches and pains

Get Help Now!

If any of this sounds like you, and it’s been going on for a while, you might be depressed.

“Reach out to a trusted adult,” says depression expert Dr. Richard Shadick. “It can be a parent, or a teacher, or a guidance counselor. Talk with them about your concerns. You shouldn’t suffer silently. Even talking with a friend is better than suffering alone with your pains. Ask for help.”

“Only about 20% of depressed teens actually get the help that they need,” says Dr. Shadick.

Teens fall through the cracks because they don’t know where to turn for help and because many adults aren’t very good at recognizing depression in teens. Some teens are just too embarrassed or ashamed to get help. They think going to a psychologist or taking medication for depression means you’re crazy.

But being depressed does not mean you’re crazy or weak. It’s a medical condition like any other. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s not even all that uncommon of a condition. About 8% of adults in Canada will experience depression in their lives, and it usually starts in the teen years. During any given year, about 4% – 5% of the population is depressed. While depression is more common in girls, it absolutely affects boys too.

Depression can hit when something tough is going on in your life, such as a death in the family, a big move, a break up with your girlfriend or boyfriend or even a big fight with your best friend. But it’s also possible to feel depressed for no apparent reason. Chalk it up to biology.

So, don’t let yourself suffer one more minute without help. If there’s no one in your life you feel comfortable talking to, you can get help on your own. Check out the resources list included at the bottom of the article to find places you can contact. You can also go to your doctor, a walk-in clinic, or even a hospital emergency room.

To make sure you get the help you need, don’t just tell them about your symptoms; they may not get that you’re depressed. Tell them you think you are depressed, so they know to start there.

Yes – You Can Feel Better

One of the biggest bummers about depression is it can make you feel like you’ve always been miserable, you’re always going to feel miserable, and maybe you even deserve to be miserable. This feeling can really get under your skin and make it very tough for you to get help.

It’s important to recognize that this feeling is false. In fact, you haven’t been miserable forever. It just seems that way because you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be happy. Even if you’ve had to be treated for depression in the past and it’s creeping up on you again, treatment is effective, and the right treatment for you can be found. Remember that your life really is just starting. Who knows what’s in store for you?

Right now, maybe you can’t imagine the joy of simple things like falling in love, visiting a new country, taking on a challenging new job, or becoming a parent. Maybe these things didn’t turn out well for those around you, or they don’t seem like much fun to you now. But your outlook will change. Your options will change. Your life will change. Just hang in there. You’ll be incredibly glad that you did.

Repairing Relationship

Another sad truth about being depressed is it can make people mad at you at just the time in your life when you need their help and support the most. You parents may be getting after you about not doing well in school or blowing off your homework or household chores. Your friends may feel you’re ignoring them, your teachers may complain you’re not trying hard enough, and everyone may have had enough of your cranky mood.

To start repairing these relationships, you’ll need to tell the people you trust that you’re depressed. Some will respond with the love and support you need, but others may have a tougher time because they don’t understand depression. If it’s your parents who aren’t getting it, suggest they sit down with your doctor or therapist, who can explain to them exactly what’s going on.

Suicide Risk

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, you need to get help right away. Talk to some you trust immediately. If there’s no one around you that you trust, go to hospital emergency room. This is a true emergency that needs immediate treatment. Those who are suicidal may need to be closely watched to be sure they don’t harm themselves or anyone else.

For Parents

How to Tell

It’s not always easy to figure out if your teen is depressed. “The tricky thing about teen depression is there’s a certain amount of irritability and mood swings that are associated with ‘just being a teenager’,” says Dr. Shadick, who is the director of the Counseling Centre at Pace University in New York City.

“The difference is the persistence over many weeks, in the presence of other kinds of symptoms,” such as those listed above. In addition, some signs of depression that turn up in teens but are less likely to be seen in adults include extreme sensitivity to criticism, withdrawal from some people but not others, and a persistent angry or irritable mood.

Why My Kid?

Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint why your child is depressed, but other times kids just get depressed for no clear reason. It’s more likely to happen if mental illness runs in your family, but it can happen to just about anyone.

Understand that your child’s depression is no one’s fault any more than developing migraine headaches is anyone’s fault. It’s apparent it’s an illness that needs to be treated. This is especially important to remember for boys, who often believe that they should tough out emotional pain, instead of expressing it or asking for help. This can make it very difficult for a teen boy who is depressed to reach out. You need to create an environment in which your child feels comfortable expressing his or her feelings.

Be Supportive

Yes, it can be difficult to be supportive when your child never does what he’s told, sleeps all day, is routinely rude to you, is failing at school,  or is nasty to his siblings. But keep in mind that if these behaviours are not typical for your kid, then depression may well be the cause.

“Find a quiet time to sit down and talk with your teen,” recommends Dr. Shadick. “Try and talk with them about your concerns, but don’t delay on that. If you think they’re depressed, have that talk as soon as possible.” If your child won’t admit to a problem, you can try arranging for him or her to sit down with another member of the family or friend whom they’ve been comfortable talking to in the past. “Failing that,” says Dr. Shadick, “simply take him or her to a mental health professional who specializes in teens and who can conduct a full evaluation.”

List of Depression Resources:

  • Mental Health Canada provides a list of Canadian crisis intervention services, including suicide prevention services.
  • has a section for teens on depression that you can visit.
  • The Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation offers a great online resource site for books about depression as well as support groups and teen health services in both Canada and the United States.