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How Can I Help My Child With Their Depression?

By Caraline McDonnell

If you think that your child or teenager is battling depression, whether you have recognized symptoms or if they have told you that they are struggling, it may be time to seek out some support from professionals.

Evaluation and Diagnosis

Getting an evaluation done by a clinician will be helpful for your child in getting the correct diagnosis and identifying which treatments may be the best fit for them. In the evaluation process, the clinician will talk to caregivers and your child, and they will likely have you fill out questionnaires to assess which symptoms of depression your child is experiencing. Following the evaluation, the clinician will provide any appropriate diagnoses and recommendations for treatments based on the results.

Overall, research has shown that a combination of therapy and medication is often the most effective for treating depression, but the recommendations may vary based on the age of your child and how impactful their depressive symptoms are on their life.

Effective Treatments

Some evidence-based treatments used for child and adolescent depression are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): In this treatment, clinicians will use a combination of psychoeducation and skills practice to teach kids and teens about how their thoughts can shape their feelings and behaviors. Work will be done to help them return to activities they enjoyed in the past, and to build strategies to combat their depressive symptoms with intentional behaviors.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): In this treatment, clinicians will use a more talk-therapy approach to discuss the impact of relationships with friends and family on a child’s feelings.

For more severe depression, a proven treatment is Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): This treatment is designed for teens who have difficulty managing very painful emotions, and who are more at risk for engaging in self-harm or suicidal behaviors. In DBT, teens learn to use mindfulness and develop problem solving skills for tolerating distress or handling difficult situations/emotions. DBT includes both individual therapy and skills groups, and for younger kids, it may also include family sessions.

Treatment for your child and your family should be individualized to meet your specific needs. Your treatments may be a combination of those listed above, and the recommendations may change over the years. A mental health professional can help you identify the best way to get started.

Preventing Depression

  1. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent depression, there are some strategies that you and your family can use to help in this effort.
  2. Establish a safe and non-judgmental rapport about emotions and feelings with your child to encourage them to seek support from you when they may be struggling.
  3. Encourage your child to take measures to control their stress and practice self-care.  This may look like helping them create a healthy sleep routine or managing their social media use.
  4. Encourage your child to interact with peers and maintain healthy relationships with friends. Their social circles can be a important source of support in the event of a crisis.
  5. Keep an eye out for any emotional or behavioral symptoms, and make sure to ask your child if they need support when you think they may be struggling.
  6. Seek out guidance from a mental health professional at the earliest sign of depression to best set your child up for success.

Want to learn more?

Mullen S. Major depressive disorder in children and adolescents. Ment Health Clin. 2018 Nov   1;8(6):275-283. doi: 10.9740/mhc.2018.11.275. PMID: 30397569; PMCID: PMC6213890.
“Depression at Different Ages.” Child Mind Institute, 21 Apr. 2023,,however%2C%20irritability%20can%20replace%20sadness.
“Depression in Teens.” Mental Health America,,calls%20for%20prompt%2C%20appropriate%20treatment. Accessed 14 Sept. 2023.
“Teen Depression.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Aug. 2022,
“Prevalence Data 2023.” Mental Health America, Accessed 14 Sept. 2023.