Your teen’s depression may be treated with talk therapy, anti-depression medicines, or a combination of these things. Learn about what is available for your teen and what you can do at home to help your teen.
You, your teen, and your medical provider should discuss what might help your teen the most. The most effective treatments for depression are:
If your teen might have a problem with drugs or alcohol, talk with their doctor.
If your teen has severe depression or is at risk for suicide, your teen may need to stay in the hospital for treatment.
Talk to your doctor about finding a therapist for your teen.
There are many different kinds of talk therapy, such as:
Your primary care provider can help you understand what your health insurance will cover.
You, your teen, and your doctor should discuss whether antidepressant medicine might help your teen. Medicine is more important if your teen is severely depressed. In these cases, talk therapy alone cannot be effective.
If you decide that medicine would help, your doctor will most likely prescribe a type of anti-depressant medicine called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) for your teen.
The two most common SSRI medicines are fluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro). These are approved to treat depression in teenagers. Prozac isalso approved for children age 8 and older.
Another type of antidepressants, called tri-cyclics, is not approved for use in teens.
There are risks and side effects with taking antidepressant medicines. Your teen’s doctor can help manage these side effects. In a small number of teens, these medicines can make them more depressed and give them more suicidal thoughts. If this happens, you or your teen should talk to the doctor right away.
If you, your teen, and your doctor decide that your teen will take an antidepressant, make sure that:
Keep talking with your teen.
Help or support your teen with daily routines.
Keep your home safe for teens.
Call your health care provider right away if you notice any signs of suicide. For immediate help, go to the nearest emergency room or call the suicide hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-999-9999. The hotline is open 24/7. Warning signs of suicide include:
US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening and treatment for major depressive disorder in children and adolescents: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Pediatrics. 2009;123:1223-1228.
Zuckerbrot RA, Cheung AH, Jenson PS, Stein REK. Identification, assessment, and initial management guidelines for adolescent depression in primary care. Pediatrics. 2007;120:e1299-e1312.
Cheung AH, Zuckerbrot RA, Jenson PS, Ghalib K. Treatment and ongoing management guidelines for adolescent depression in primary care. Pediatrics. 2007;120:e1313-e1326.
Bostic JQ, Prince JB. Child and adolescent psychiatric disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 69.
Antidepressant Medications for Children and Adolescents: Information for Parents and Caregivers. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). January 13, 2010. Accessed March 25, 2012.
Updated by: David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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