Talking to an adult about depression can be quite difficult, as most teenagers are afraid of not being taken seriously or being labeled by their own family members. However, there are a few steps you can take to bring the subject up with your family: prepare carefully for the conversation by researching the symptoms of depression, ask to have a one-on-one conversation with your parents, and finally tell them how they can help it during treatment.
Method 1 of 3: Thinking about what to say
Step 1. Identify the symptoms of depression.
Before talking to your family about it, you should consider whether you really are depressed - use trusted sources, such as the Pan American Health Organization website, to learn more about the illness.
- In adolescence, symptoms of depression can manifest in different ways: you may feel indecisive, tired, angry, or very sad; or perhaps you also have difficulties at school, such as lack of interest and motivation, or problems with memory and concentration.
- A depressed teenager may also withdraw from friends and family and begin to want to spend more time alone; may have insomnia or feel too sleepy; and you may also try to numb your feelings with the help of drugs and alcohol, or by engaging in other risky behaviors.
- Even if you're not sure if you're depressed, talking about your symptoms and asking your parents for help is still the best option.
Step 2. Keep in mind that the conversation will not be easy
You can get quite emotional talking about the problem - maybe one of you starts crying, and there's nothing wrong with that. The subject is complicated, but talking about depression before things get worse is definitely the most appropriate attitude for the situation.
Perhaps your parents have already sensed that something is wrong and simply cannot identify what is going on, or what they can do to help - by giving the problem a name, you will reassure them and help them understand what action to take from here forward
Step 3. Ask a trusted person for help
If you're afraid of your parents' reaction, you can ask your school counselor, teacher, or other trusted adult for advice - this will help you better prepare to have the conversation with your family.
- Say something like “Professor Anderson, I think I'm depressed. I don't know how to tell my family this."
- This adult can invite your parents to a meeting, allowing you to break the news in a safe and comfortable environment.
Step 4. Decide who you want to talk to first
Perhaps you want to talk to both of them at the same time, or perhaps you prefer to talk to just one of them - you may have a closer relationship with one of your parents, believe that one will react better than the other, or perhaps even feel that one of them is responsible for the problem.
In that case, start by talking to the person you're most comfortable with - they can help you break the news to the other adult
Step 5. Write a letter if you are having trouble finding the right words
Having a direct conversation about our feelings can be very difficult, so perhaps a note or text message is an easier way to communicate the news to your parents.
Write in a serious tone to show you're not kidding - describe some of your symptoms, explain how the problem is affecting your life, and ask them to make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional
Step 6. Practice what you are going to say
Improving a conversation about depression can be difficult, so rehearse the conversation in front of the mirror, or with a trusted friend, to feel more comfortable talking to your parents.
Put the most important points on paper and have these notes handy during the conversation - this will help you remember everything you want to talk about, even if the situation gets very emotional
Step 7. Predict their questions
Be prepared to explain depression and describe your feelings and symptoms; also, leverage your research to gather tips on how others can help you. Your family will likely have a lot of questions, so prepare the answers in advance or simply let them know you'll feel more comfortable talking to a professional. Here are some examples of possible questions:
- Do you feel like getting hurt or committing suicide?
- How long have you felt this way?
- Did something or situation cause this?
- How can we help you feel better?
- Your parents may also ask other questions while they are processing the news, and you may need to discuss the matter several times before they fully understand the problem; but the next conversations will probably be easier than the first.
Method 2 of 3: Chatting
Step 1. Choose a good time
Bring it up when your parents aren't occupied or distracted by something else - choose a quiet time where you have a chance to talk alone, such as long car rides, quiet family nights, walks, or the times when everyone are doing household chores together.
Ask when would be a good time if your parents are very busy people, saying something like "I have something important to talk to you about. When would be a good time for a private conversation?"
Step 2. Show that you are serious
Some parents make the mistake of not taking their children's depression seriously, so get their attention by immediately stating that the matter is serious.
- Be serious by saying something like "I have a serious problem and I need help" or "Talking about this isn't easy, but I need you to really listen."
- In some cases, the opportunity to talk about the matter and demonstrate the gravity of the situation may come naturally - you may start to cry and simply let your feelings out all of a sudden; or perhaps your parents notice your extreme frustration with the school and take the initiative to ask if something is wrong.
Step 3. Speak in first person singular (me)
Formulate every sentence like this so that you can communicate your feelings without putting your parents on the defensive - saying something like "your constant fights make me sick" might make your parents feel the need to defend their own behavior rather than simply pay attention on what you have to say. Therefore, your feelings should be the focus of the conversation.
Sentences in the first person singular can sound like "I feel exhausted, discouraged, and I have trouble getting out of bed" or "I know I've been moody lately. I've been angry with myself, and at times I even hate myself." I feel like dying."
Step 4. Name your feelings
Now that you've said how you've been feeling, name the problem - talk to your parents about the research you've just done and offer to share interesting articles on the subject. Coping with depression and How to tell if you are depressed may be good options.
- "I've read some articles about depression, and the symptoms are very similar to what I've been feeling. I think maybe I'm depressed."
- Be firm if they try to minimize the problem with expressions such as “being down” or “upset,” and let them know that their symptoms meet clinical criteria for depression.
Step 5. Ask to talk to a doctor
Don't just bring up the subject and wait for adults to know how to fix the problem - make it clear that you're worried about depression and want help.
- Say something like "I think I need to see a doctor."
- In addition to confirming the problem, a medical consultation may be the first step necessary for you to receive proper treatment or be referred to a specialist.
- Also ask if your family has a history of depression or other mental problems - this will help you understand if the condition may have a genetic component.
Step 6. Don't despair if they don't react well to the news
Perhaps they react with disbelief, anger, fear or remorse; but keep in mind that although you've been experiencing depression for some time, your parents just got the news. So give them some time to deal with this and find out how they really feel.
- If they're confused, say something like "It took me a long time to figure out what was going on too", and remember that this is not your fault - you did the right thing and broke the news in the best possible way.
- If the family doesn't take your complaints seriously, keep pushing it until someone else takes action, or try talking to another adult. Depression is a serious problem, regardless of your parents' personal beliefs.
Method 3 of 3: Enlisting Family Help During Treatment
Step 1. Talk about your feelings
Talking about the problem can be very difficult, but you will feel better if you can share your emotions with someone. So take courage and talk to your parents about depression, particularly on days when you're feeling worse than usual.
- Don't feel guilty about being depressed, and don't hide your feelings to try to protect your family from stress and worry.
- Talking with adults doesn't mean that you expect to be "healed" by someone - these conversations are just an outlet for your emotions, and will help you feel less alone.
- All parents want to know when something is wrong with their kids, rather than having to guess - so be honest so they can start helping you.
Step 2. Write a list of all the things the family can do to support you
Share useful information about treating depression - the problem can be alleviated with the help of medication, a good night's sleep, balanced meals, and physical activity; therefore, tell them how your parents can help you take these steps.
List ways they can support your treatment - they could take night walks with you, have family games to help you with some stress, buy medicine at the pharmacy, or make arrangements for you to always sleep on time
Step 3. Ask them to accompany you to the appointments, if you like
This is a great way to involve your parents in the treatment as they will be able to monitor your progress and will have the opportunity to clarify any questions with the responsible provider. In addition, you will feel more supported during this difficult time if you have someone to accompany you to psychiatric appointments and therapy sessions.
Say something like "I'd like you to join me for the next appointment."
Step 4. Ask if they would like to join a support group
Perhaps your doctor or therapist has recommended a group for teenagers or young people with depression - the meetings will help you bond with others who are facing situations similar to yours; but your parents may also find benefits in these groups.
- At meetings, your family will learn more ways to support you during treatment; and it can also create bonds with other people who are also supporting an adolescent's treatment.
- Many organizations offer support groups for patients and families of people with depression, so do an online search to find options near you.
Step 5. Ask a professional for help
If you have been able to do therapy but still feel that you cannot count on your parents' support, you may want to ask the therapist for help - perhaps he will offer to talk with your family about the seriousness of the situation, among other things.