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Talking to Parents About Depression

What If You Think You're Depressed?

If you feel depressed, alone, or are having troubles you can't solve, you need to reach out for help and support. If you can, it's best to turn to a parent. 

Parents Can Help

Preparing to Talk to Parents

It may seem hard to share personal feelings with parents, especially if you haven't done it in a while. It also can be hard to share when you're not really sure what's going on yourself. Sometimes parents can offer a new angle that helps you figure things out. Just talking about it might help you see things more clearly for yourself.

Some people worry about how a parent might react. Will mom be mad? Will dad be disappointed? It's natural to worry, but most parents are supportive and understanding when they realize what's going on.

If you're like most people, you probably wish your parent would start the conversation. Sometimes a parent will ask what's wrong. Much of the time, though, it's up to you.

Starting the Conversation

Find a time when you can approach your mom or dad in a calm way. You might want to open the conversation by asking, "Can I talk to you? I've been feeling depressed and bad about things. I've been thinking I might need to talk to someone."

You're Not Alone Someone Cares

If it's too hard to start a conversation in person, you could write your parent a note saying you need to talk.

Sometimes the conversation just gets started by itself. For example, if you're crying or overwhelmed, you might just blurt out your feelings. This could be the perfect beginning to the conversation you need to have.

If you're really upset, you'll need to calm yourself (at least a little) to make the conversation worthwhile. That way, a parent can hear what's on your mind and really listen.

What If I've Been Arguing With My Parents or Getting in Trouble?

If there's been a lot of disrespect between you and your parent — if you fight a lot or just don't talk — it can seem harder to reach out for help. Start by picking a time to talk when you're not arguing.

If it's needed, you can start with an apology, such as, "I'm sorry things haven't been so good between us lately." Then say, "I need to talk" or, "I need your help. I think I might be depressed." Chances are, mom or dad will be impressed with your maturity.

What Happens Next?

After you get the conversation started, your parent will probably ask you to say more about what you're going through. This part might be surprisingly easy. Now that the conversation has started, it might feel like a relief to pour your heart out.

Or, this part might be hard. You might not be sure how to put your feelings into words. Try to get beyond just saying, "I don't know." If you really can't explain things, try saying, "I want to do this, but I just can't find the words right now." Give it more thought, but be sure to talk about it again later. Your mom or dad will be concerned and may ask how you're doing. They're not nagging. They just care about you.

Sometimes, talking about depression can be hard for parents too. It might take several conversations, or you might feel better right away. Every situation is different.

If a specific problem has you depressed, a parent may be able to help you think of something to do about it. Or mom or dad might listen to your ideas for what to do and give you a vote of confidence that you're on the right track. That can be reassuring. Whether or not you come up with solutions right away, sharing a problem is better than keeping it to yourself.

Solving More

What if I Need to Talk to a Therapist?

If depression is strong or lasts, you might need to talk with a therapist — even after you've had good conversations with your parents. Let your mom or dad know if you continue to feel depressed or if you have problems with motivation, concentration, or moods. Your mom or dad can make an appointment for you and support you while you work with a therapist.

If your parent isn't sure you need to see a therapist but you feel you do, explain why. It's best to do this when you feel calm so you can get your ideas across well. Some parents may worry about finding the right therapist or how much it will cost. Your doctor, religious leader, or school counselor can help your parent find local and affordable therapists.

What if Talking to Parents Doesn't Work?

Even if you think a parent won't be willing or able to help, it's still worth a try to talk. People are often surprised by how much their parents rally to their side when they ask for help, even if the parents have a lot going on themselves.

Occasionally, parents have too many troubles of their own or other issues going on. If you reach out to talk and it turns out your mom or dad can't help, go to another adult (such as a teacher, counselor, coach, or relative). Don't give up until you find someone who can help you. It's that important.

What Else Can Parents Do?

Even if you're seeing a therapist, there are ways parents can help when you're dealing with depression. For example, they can:

  • communicate with kindness — and agree to ban hurtful criticism, arguments, threats, and putdowns
  • remind you that they love and believe in you
  • show affection
  • comment on your positive actions and traits
  • help with homework or projects you're having trouble with, or get you a tutor
  • see the good in you and keep expecting good things from you
  • hold you accountable (kindly, but seriously) for your responsibilities at home and at school
  • talk through problems with you
  • make sure you get proper exercise, nutrition, and sleep (it's not nagging, it's love!)
  • do things with you that you both enjoy — walk, play a sport or game, watch a movie, do a craft, or cook.

You might need to ask your mom or dad to do these things for you. You can show them this list or come up with your own ideas. You know best what feels most helpful to you.

Talk with your mom or dad about actions you'll both take to help with your depression. Make a list of what you plan to do. Be sure that your plan includes how you'll do these things: 

  • get exercise
  • get the right amount of sleep and rest
  • eat healthy food
  • spend time outdoors during the day
  • spend time in relaxing, enjoyable activities, especially with the people you love. 

Look at your list every day to help you remember to do what's on your plan — and to remind yourself that you can get through this. Beyond depression, there's a brighter future ahead.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: August 2016

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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