Get Your Teen Screened for Depression

The Basics
Most teens with depression don’t get the help they need. Depression is serious, but it can be treated with medicine and counseling.

Take Action!
Ask the doctor about screening your teen for depression, even if you don’t see signs of a problem.

Start Today: Small Steps

The Basics

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If your child is between ages 12 and 18, ask the doctor about screening (testing) for depression – even if you don't see signs of a problem.

Why do I need to get my teen screened for depression?
Depression can be serious, and many teens with depression don’t get the help they need.

The good news is that depression can be treated with counseling, medicine, or a combination of both. When you ask your child's doctor about screening for depression, find out what services are available in case your teen needs follow-up care.

What is depression?

It can affect your thoughts, mood, and daily activities – and make you feel sad or down. But depression is more than feeling sad for a few days.

Teen depression can be a serious mental illness. If your child is depressed, she may:

It’s normal for teens to have mood swings, and it can be hard to tell if your child is just feeling down or if she’s depressed. That’s why it’s so important for all teens to be screened for depression.

Learn more about depression in teens:

What causes depression?
Depression can happen to anyone. It’s not your fault or your teen’s fault. Some experiences may make it more likely that a teen will develop depression, like:

Teen girls are more likely to get depressed than teen boys.

What happens during a depression screening?
The doctor will ask your teen questions about his feelings and behaviors. This may include asking how often your teen:

Screening for depression usually takes about 5 minutes. It can be done as part of your teen’s yearly checkup.

What if the doctor finds signs of depression?
If your child is showing signs of depression, the doctor will:

Make sure to include your teen when you make any decisions about treatment.

Take Action!

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Take steps to protect your teen’s mental health.

Talk to your teen’s doctor about depression screening.
Ask the doctor to screen your child for depression. If you're worried about your teen, be sure to let the doctor know. Find out what services are available in case your teen needs treatment.

What about cost?
Screening for depression is covered under the Affordable Care Act. Depending on your insurance plan, your teen may be able to get screened at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to find out what's included in your plan.

Find out more about the mental health services covered under the Affordable Care Act.

If you don’t have health insurance, use this treatment locator to find mental health services near you. Some programs offer free or low-cost treatment for depression.

Write down any concerns you have.
Keep track of your teen’s actions and words that make you think she might be depressed. If you see a change in your child’s behavior, make a note about the change and when it happened. Include details like:

Share these notes with your teen’s doctor. You can also use them to start a conversation with your teen.

Watch for signs that your teen may be thinking about suicide.
Most people who are depressed don’t attempt suicide, but depression can increase the risk of suicide and suicide attempts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24.

These behaviors may be signs that your teen is thinking about suicide:

If your child is showing some or all of these warning signs, get help right away. Visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline External Links Disclaimer Logo or call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to learn how to help.

If you think your child may be in immediate danger, call 911 or take him to the emergency room.

Find resources for your teen.
If your child isn’t ready to talk to you about her feelings, there are still things you can do. Help your teen find resources online and in the community.

Share these resources with your teen:

Let her know that, in a crisis, she can get support anonymously (without giving her name) by:

Make a list with your teen of other people she can go to with problems or questions – like a teacher, guidance counselor, or another trusted adult.

Remind your teen that you're always there if she wants to talk.

Start Today: Small Steps

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