emergency hotline

Depression / Self Injury

Understand the Challenge
Understand the Challenge
What is depression?

Depression is a problem many kids face that can disguise itself as normal “mood swings” due to puberty or teenage development. Therefore, it is often ignored until something more serious happens, like a suicide attempt, self injury, or a serious risk-taking behavior that gets the kid in to trouble. If you think your kid is depressed, do not ignore your observations. There are actions you can make and steps you can take that will help them overcome depression. If it turns out it was normal behavior, you have shown you cared enough to check it out.

  • 14%-24% of youth and young adults have self-injured at least once.

    - Nixon MK, et al. CMAJ, 2008
  • In the U.S., one in 20 teens have moderate to severe major depression.

    - NIMH, 2007
  • About 80% of people diagnosed with major depression can be treated and return to their usual activities and feelings.

    - NAMI–Major Depression Fact Sheet
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year-olds.

    - CDC Surveillance System: 2011 National Overview
  • Depression in adolescence frequently co-occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, disruptive behavior, eating disorders or substance abuse.

    - NAMI – Major Depression Fact Sheet, 2008
Signs of Depression/Self Injury

Depression isn’t just about being very sad; it is an illness that affects nearly every part of life. This is especially true in teens where the illness of clinical depression is often masked by irritability, acting out, drug use, and anger. About one in
twenty teens suffers from depression at any given time. Sometimes depression is an inherited condition. Sometimes it grows out of trauma or other seriously negative events, and often is prompted by a combination of both factors. If left untreated, teen depression may lead to failure at school, running away, addictive difficulties, social/emotional withdrawal, and suicide. It is important for parents to know the signs and symptoms, and take immediate steps to treat the depression.

Depression is a problem many kids face that often disguises itself as normal “mood swings” due to puberty or teenage development. Therefore, it is often ignored until something more serious happens, like a suicide attempt, self-injury, or a serious risk-taking behavior that gets the kid in trouble. If you think your kid is depressed, do not ignore your observations. There are things you can do and steps you can take that will help them overcome depression. If it turns out it was normal behavior, you have shown you cared enough to check it out.

  • Depression:
  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in once pleasurable activities or hobbies
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Suicide:
  • Family history of depression or suicide
  • Unresolved losses (deaths, moves, job loss, etc.)
  • Family conflicts
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Medical problems (sleeping, eating, pain)
  • Academic failure / Learning problems
  • Mentioning suicide or a direct warning about suicide
  • Plan to commit suicide / past attempts
  • Stressful events / community trauma
  • Rigid thinking / impulsiveness
Parent Guide
Ask your kids about the amplif(i) presentations they saw at school.

What choices did the speaker make that they can or cannot relate to, what did they learn?

Tell your kids what your family’s position is on depression and self injury.

Talk to your spouse, agree on your family’s position, and share that with your kid. Make that position very clear and always remain consistent, don’t waiver.

It can be difficult to tell depression from normal teen moodiness.

It is recommended that when signs of depression occur suddenly or in combination with each other, it may need to be evaluated more seriously by a professional.

Show your kid that you care.

If you suspect your kid may be struggling with depression symptoms, let them know you are concerned in an honest, caring way.

Communicate your concerns without judgment.

There is no single known cause of depression. Some types of depression tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic link. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression as well.

Ask your kid to explore their symptoms and feelings with a counselor or physician who deals with depression.

Depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior appear to function abnormally, and your kid may need medication to assist.

Explore the reasons your kid may feel the way they do.

Trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Subsequent depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.

If your kid is not ready to listen, don’t give up.

Let your kid know you are there to provide support and listen when they are ready. Don't pressure them to talk, but ensure that they know they can always go to you to discuss how they may be feeling.

Educate yourself on signs, symptoms, and causes of depression.

Talk to your doctor about your kid’s behavior; make an appointment for your kid to see their doctor as well. There could be a physical reason for them to be showing some of the symptoms of depression. Check your family medical history. Look for patterns of depression and share what you find with your kid.

Talk with your kid about your concerns.

Ask your kid about their thoughts and feelings regarding their behavior and note how it compares to signs of depression. Let them know that you are concerned and are there to help.

Consult with a specialist in adolescent psychology.

List the warning signs and behaviors that you have noticed and ask for a recommendation or a consultation meeting with your kid.

Respect your kid’s privacy.

Make it a point to be diligent in helping them locate the professional resources they need for assistance. Be sure to protect their confidentiality while seeking professional help.

Remember the issues that increase the likelihood of suicidal behavior.

Such as family history of mood disorders, substance abuse, history of child abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional), family history of suicide attempts or completions, history of previous suicide attempts, a diagnosis of ADHD, current relationship problems (especially family or significant other), having access to weapons or prescription medicine.


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Emergency Resources

notMYkid is not a counseling or treatment agency. We are here to offer support, information and options. Destructive youth behaviors do not discriminate and have impacted many lives. A number of resources are available, and will assist you in finding the help necessary to make informed and empowered choices.

Teen Lifeline

602-248-TEEN (8336)
or 1-800-248-TEEN (8336)

National Teen Helplines


Community Information and Referral Services

(800-352-3792 within
area codes 520 and 928)

Maricopa 24-Hour Crisis Hotline


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