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Helping your teen with depression

Teen depression - helping; Teen depression - talk therapy; Teen depression - medicine

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Your teen's depression may be treated with talk therapy, anti-depression medicines, or a combination of these. Learn about what is available and what you can do at home to help your teen.

Treatment Options for Your Teenager

You, your teen, and your health care provider should discuss what might help your teen the most. The most effective treatments for depression are:

If your teen might have a problem with drugs or alcohol, discuss this with the provider.

If your teen has severe depression or is at risk for suicide, your teen may need to stay in the hospital for treatment.

Find a Good Therapist or Counselor

Talk to your provider about finding a therapist for your teen.

There are many different kinds of talk therapy, such as:

Check with your health insurance company to see what they will cover.

Learn about Anti-depressant Medicines

You, your teen, and your provider should discuss whether antidepressant medicine might help your teen. Medicine is more important if your teen is severely depressed. In these cases, talk therapy alone won't be as effective.

If you decide that medicine would help, your provider will most likely prescribe a type of anti-depressant medicine called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) for your teen.

The two most common SSRI medicines are fluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro). These are approved to treat depression in teenagers. Prozac is also approved for children age 8 and older.

Another class of antidepressants, called tricyclics, is not approved for use in teens.

There are risks and side effects with taking antidepressants. Your teen's provider can help manage these side effects. In a small number of teens, these medicines can make them more depressed and give them more suicidal thoughts. If this happens, you or your teen should talk to the provider right away.

If you, your teen, and your provider decide that your teen will take an antidepressant, make sure that:

You Can Help Your Teenager

Keep talking with your teen.

Help or support your teen with daily routines. You can:

Keep your home safe for teens.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider right away if you notice any signs of suicide. For immediate help, go to the nearest emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911).

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK), where you can receive free and confidential support anytime day or night.

Warning signs of suicide include:


American Psychiatric Association. Major depressive disorder. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013:160-168.

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. Accessed March 17, 2021.

Siu AL; US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for depression in children and adolescents: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(5):360-366. PMID: 26858097


Review Date: 11/7/2020  

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

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