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Managing your depression - teens

Depression is a serious medical condition that you need help with until you feel better. Know that you are not alone. One in five teenagers will be depressed at some point. The good thing is, there are ways to get treatment. Learn about treatment for depression and what you can do to help yourself get better.

Take Part in Talk Therapy

Talk therapy can help you feel better. Talk therapy is just that. You talk with a therapist or a counselor about how you are feeling and what you are thinking about.

You usually see a therapist once a week. The more open you are with your therapist about your thoughts and feelings, the more helpful the therapy can be.

Taking Medicine for Depression

Be involved with this decision if you can. Learn from your health care provider if depression medicine might help you feel better. Talk about it with your provider and parents.

If you take medicine for depression, know that:

  • It can take a few weeks to feel better after you start taking the medicine.
  • Antidepressant medicine works best if you take it every day.
  • You may need to take the medicine for 6 to 12 months or more to get the best effect and to lower the risk of depression coming back.
  • You need to talk to your provider about how the medicine makes you feel. If it is not working enough, if it is causing any side effects, or if it is making you feel worse or suicidal, your provider may need to change the dose or the medicine you are taking.
  • You should not stop taking your medicine on your own. If the medicine does not make you feel good, talk to your provider. Your provider has to help you stop the medicine slowly. Stopping it suddenly could make you feel worse.

Stay in Touch with Your Depression Symptoms

Talk with your parents or your provider if you feel your depression symptoms are getting worse. You may need a change in your treatment.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text 988 or chat You can also call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7, anytime day or night.

You can also call 911 or the local emergency number or go to the hospital emergency room. DO NOT delay.

If someone you know has attempted suicide, call 911 or the local emergency number right away. DO NOT leave the person alone, even after you have called for help.

Avoid Risky Behaviors

Risky behaviors are behaviors that can hurt you. They include:

  • Unsafe sex
  • Drinking
  • Doing drugs
  • Driving dangerously
  • Skipping school

If you take part in risky behaviors, know that they can make your depression worse. Take control of your behavior rather than letting it control you.

Avoid drugs and alcohol. They can make your depression worse.

Ask your parents to lock up or remove any guns in your home.

Spend time with friends who are positive and can support you.

When to Call the Doctor

Talk to your parents and call your provider if you are:

  • Thinking about death or suicide
  • Feeling worse
  • Thinking about stopping your medicine

Alternative Names

Recognizing depression in your teen; Helping your teen with depression


American Psychiatric Association website. Depressive disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Text Revision (DSM-5-TR), Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association Publishing; 2022.

Bostic JQ, Prince JB, Buxton DC. Child and adolescent psychiatric disorders. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 69.

National Institute of Mental Health website. Child and adolescent mental health. Updated May 2021. Accessed December 9, 2022.

US Preventive Services Task Force, Mangione CM, Barry MJ, Nicholson WK, et al. Screening for depression and suicide risk in children and adolescents: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 2022;328(15):1534-1542. PMID: 36219440

Review Date 11/6/2022

Updated by: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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