Major depression is common and can prevent a person from performing even the basic activities of life. Unfortunately, the prevalence of major depression has been increasing, especially among adolescents. The most recent data revealed an estimated 2.2 million American adolescents aged 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode with severe impairment in the past year.
While this information focuses on teen depression, the fact of the matter is that preventing teen depression doesn’t start once your child is a teen. Preventing teen depression begins as early as the newborn stage. Most of the healthy habits discussed in this article such as building and maintaining a family connection, limiting screen time, encouraging healthy nutrition and promoting adequate sleep must be established long before a child reaches adolescence if they are to be truly effective in ensuring that your child enjoys positive mental health and emotional well-being.
Volunteer together as a family. Volunteering helps adolescents develop a sense of purpose for their lives and helps give their lives meaning. Volunteering together with your teen will not only improve their well being, but it will also serve to bond and connect parents and children – which, as noted above, is also protective against adolescent depression. (Volunteering)
Encourage your teen to keep a gratitude journal. Keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to improve mental health. Writing three things each night for which they are grateful is another way to encourage teens to improve their mental well-being. (Attitude of Gratitude)
Encourage sexual abstinence. Adolescent sexual activity is an independent risk factor for developing low self-esteem, major depression, and attempting suicide. In addition, the use of hormonal contraception has been associated with an increased risk of depression in adolescents. (Pointers for Parents)
Teach your teens to avoid drugs and alcohol. Drinking and smoking are associated with significantly increased odds of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. (Dangers of Marijuana)
Encourage quality time spent with both parents. The optimal situation for all children, especially teens, is to have both mom and dad involved in their daily lives. (The Importance of Fathers)
Limit social media use. Because social acceptance by peers is so important to most adolescents, viewing others on the internet as having more possessions or being “liked” more by others may contribute to depressive symptoms. (Your Child and Media)
Encourage exercise. Research confirms that exercise can decrease the symptoms of depression in adolescents.
Continue to encourage adequate sleep (9 hours/night for most adolescents) and healthy sleep habits, including eliminating electronic media at least one hour prior to bedtime and removing all electronic media from the bedroom (including cell phones).