Jeff Devoll

How Will This Help You Deal with Teenage Depression?

This is meant as a general resource to provide you with information regarding the types of teenage depression, what the cycle of depression is, and how to break the cycle. If your teenager is experiencing any of these signs of teen depression it is best to seek medical help right away.

Teen Depression statistics show some sobering increases in Depression among teens and children. According to the CDC, depression and anxiety have increased over time with some alarming trends:

  • “Ever having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression” among children aged 6–17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012.4
  • “Ever having been diagnosed with anxiety” increased from 5.5% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2011–2012.4
  • “Ever having been diagnosed with depression” did not change between 2007 (4.7%) and 2011-2012 (4.9%).

Helping Teens with Depression

Everyone experiences depression. But you can help!

However, due to hormonal and developmental factors that are intrinsic to their stage of transition from childhood to adulthood, teenagers experience depression more than most people.

This is experienced emotionally and physiologically, which compounds the difficulty. The video and

this accompanying guide are only a short primer, but we hope it helps.

The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

What is uCoach

This article is part of a series of resources called uCoach which is a resource for parents, educators, mentors, faith-based youth workers, relatives, coaches, or anyone working with teenagers.

We have an ongoing YouTube series with videos and handouts to help the teenager in your care.

This series is your guide to helping your teens during this time of COVID, social distancing, and distance learning.

The videos can be found here.

These resources focus on life skills, social-emotional regulation, and other important concepts.

They are based in cognitive behavioral therapy, creative communication, and mentoring techniques, which are proven to be effective and simple to understand.

Teen Depression

Your teenagers are not just moody.

They are experiencing loss.

They are dealing with depression, and maybe they are winning the fight but maybe they are really struggling.

I want to talk to you about:

  • Understanding types of depression
  • Understanding the Cycle of Depression
  • And 5 things you can do to help overcome depression
  • And one bonus idea

Before I do, let me say this –  I’m not a health care professional, but I have spoken to hundreds of thousands of students from more than 40 states and 40 countries, and I have spent a lot of time talking to them about the stuff they deal with.

I also study this stuff and I run a coaching program that has reached more than 3000 teenagers, so this is real-world stuff.

Perhaps, more importantly, I have two teenagers myself, a 15-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son who is autistic, so yeah, I’m in the trenches with you.

We use this stuff. It works. 

Types of Depression

Below we have outlined 4 common types of depression and clinical depression, which is a medical problem.

While in any form it is dangerous, clinical depression is serious and requires professional support.

Call your physician right away to get your teen professional help.

Seasonal affective depression (SAD): This is a type of depression that is related to changes in the seasons.

Causes: This happens generally during the fall and winter months because of the reduced level of sunlight. The decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.

A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.

The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

Occasional depression: Feeling down because of a thought, memory, behavior, or conversation.

Hormonal depression: Sadness caused by the insecurity of being a normal teenager.

Situational depression: This is caused by unhappiness or even despair caused by circumstances, rejection, or failure.

This is not a technical term in psychiatry. Your doctor may call this adjustment disorder or stress response syndrome.

Causes: This happens when you are having trouble managing a particularly stressful event in your life, such as a death in your family, a divorce, or the loss your job.

Clinical depression: Depression ranging in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression.

Clinical depression is the more severe form of depression, also known as major depression. If you are clinically depressed, you may need professional help.



Understanding the Cycle of Depression

Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors all affect one another; working together to become a vicious cycle.

Here’s why:

o You lack energy

o This causes reduced activity or neglect of responsibilities

o You begin experiencing increased guilt and hopelessness

o and this all leads to a depressive state, in which the cycle

starts over from the lack of energy

Overcoming the Cycle of Depression

You can help your teen break this cycle.

Recovering from depression requires action but acting when you are depressed is hard.

In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like going for a walk or spending time with friends, can be exhausting.

It is the Catch-22 of depression recovery: The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do.

Talk to Your Teenager

With mental health disorders on the rise in teenagers, it is important to have conversations surrounding these topics. They can be difficult and awkward but are worth it.

If you don’t know where to begin look to pop culture.

One particularly hot topic that has had both teenagers and parents alike talking is the show Thirteen Reasons Why.

If you haven’t heard of it, it is a show on Netflix.

The show is centered on the character, Hannah, a female high school student who is a victim of bullying and ultimately takes her own life. An act in which the show clearly portrays in one scene.

Many have criticized the show for glamorizing suicide. Whether you agree or not, the show certainly had people talking about mental health.

The conversation often needs a starting point, and if nothing else, this show is one.

It is important to educate the entire family on mental health.

If one family member is experiencing mental illness it inadvertently affects the whole family.

Learning the ways in which this does shows support and aids in communicating with other family members through open dialogue.

Breaking the Cycle of Depression

Below you will find five things you should encourage and help your teenager to do, to help break the depressive cycle.

  1. GET OUTSIDE– Getting your teen outside and exposed to bright sunlight for 30 minutes a day helps keep their internal clock set.The exposure must come through the eyes though! This helps the circadian rhythm, which is what regulates the sleep and wake cycles, and ensures a good night’s sleep.This helps both the physical and mental health.
  1. AEROBIC EXERCISE– A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. The key to sustaining these mood benefits is to exercise regularly.Activities should be moderately intense- you do not need to sweat strenuously to see results. It is important that when finding exercises they are continuous and rhythmic.Walking, swimming, dancing, biking, and running are all great examples.
  1. EAT HEALTHY– What you eat has a direct impact on the way that you feel.Reducing the intake of foods that can negatively affect your brain and mood, such as caffeine, sugar, alcohol, trans fats, and highly processed foods, can improve your teens mood.
  1. SLEEP– Changing their sleep routine so that it is more conducive to a good night’s rest will be beneficial. This looks like:
    • Turning the lights down and going to bed at the same time every night.
    • Turning the T.V. and phone off at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.
    • Not working late or doing other stressful activities that cause the mind to race.
    • A tired body and a quiet mind are the requirements for quality sleep.
  1. SOCIALIZE– Involve your teen with close friends and family. They do not have to engage in heavy conversations about their troubles, they only need to have fun.Just spending time with other people can help feelings of isolation fade. This should be done face-to-face (not online!) and done regularly.

Postures of Power

Can we really change our emotions with our bodies? Have you ever tried?

Amy Cuddy’s TED talk (  is one of the most popular ever and although some of the research has been challenged, ultimately, the findings have been verified (

This part of the article is meant for you and your teen to do together.

Go grab your teen and get ready to try these exercises together.

The green share point is a spot for you to test the posture and discuss with your teen.

*Let us know in the comments how each of these poses affected you and your teen.

(add images of these)

The Superman/Wonder Woman:

  • The Superman/Wonder Woman pose. Stand up straight, hands on hips.
  • This is not to mimic a superhero. The reason superheroes are shown in this pose is because it is a posture of power.
  • Research confirms that standing this way exudes strength.
  • Share Point: stand like superman or wonder woman for 60 seconds and discuss how you feel after.

The Submission Pose:

  • Have your teen sit with their feet close together, and arms close to their bodies slightly crossed.
  • You stand with your arms and feet just slightly crossed.
  • Share Point: Sit or stand in the submission pose for 30 seconds and then discuss how you feel. Switch poses and discuss again.

The Victory Pose:

  • The victory stance. Arms up in a “V” with legs spread apart.
  • This is a big stance, maybe the biggest.
  • A grizzly bear stands up straight to show power. Even non-predator animals, like a horse, will get as tall as possible to show aggression.
  • Share Point: Stand in the victory pose for 60 seconds and then discuss.

Key Points from Postures of Power

  • Stand up taller and make yourself as big as possible when you want others to perceive you as confident.
  • You don’t just communicate to others with the way you hold your body, but you actually send signals to yourself.
  • Amy Cutty is an American social psychologist and her research staff put people in these “high power” and “low power” poses for just two minutes.
    • In just two minutes, the hormones in their saliva changed drastically.
    • Hormones associated with confidence and power were greatly increased.
    • Testosterone increased and cortisol (the stress hormone) decreased after these power poses.
  • To help you overcome feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression, use power poses to change your hormones and increase your confidence.


StudentReach runs a mentoring program for at-risk high school teens.

In this program students receive the above information and more, on how to regulate their social and emotional health.

Balancing these with mental and physical health is key.

And it is key for your teen as well.

We know that just telling students to not do something doesn’t work; therefore, we give them resources like cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, and tell them that it will be difficult but that they can do it.

One key takeaway is that schools, organizations and even families need to foster an environment where everyone is part of the solution.

When peers, educators, parent s and other caring adult see themselves as part of the solution, then those in crisis are more likely to find the right resources.

Peers need to know what their role can be and what their role is not.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, call 911 to get help immediately, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Crisis Text Line (text “HOME” to 741741).

What did you experience after doing the power poses? Tell us in the comments below!

About the Author:

Jeff Devoll, executive director of StudentReach, is an international speaker, trainer, facilitator and mentor to students and leaders.

Jeff has spoken to over 1,000,000 people from 40 states and 40 countries.

But Jeff is more than a speaker, he and his team have taken more than 8,000 volunteers on domestic and international “expeditions” to help schools and impoverished people around the world.

More than 3000 students have been mentored through StudentReach’s mentoring and coaching programs, most of them highly at-risk students.

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