“I felt like the world was out to get me”
Victoria Metal is a music teacher from North Carolina. At 25, she’s one of the youngest guests on Teenage Kicks, and much closer in age to my teenagers than she is to me. She talks about something I think is common to lots of teenagers, and adults, Depression.
How many teenagers have depression or anxiety?
Depression and anxiety among teens is common, with nearly a third presenting with symptoms of an anxiety disorder by the age of 18. Anxiety in teenage girls more than twice as common as it is in boys. Teenage years are some of the most stressful times of our lives, with the burden of needing to succeed academically, and social pressures adding to the intense experience of physical development and puberty.
What causes anxiety in teens?
Victoria describes what kickstarted her anxiety – school pressures, friendship issues and overwhelm. Just normal stuff, that so many families will relate to. As a young girl she spent hours on the floor of her bedroom listening to music, just to escape from her emotions. In the podcast she also tells me about how she tried to ask for help, but didn’t manage to get the support she needed in time to prevent what happened later.
What does depression look like in a teenager?
I was struck by how well Victoria coped as a teenager. Talking to her reminded me that being 18 doesn’t make you an adult, and that young people still need emotional support as they begin adult life. In the podcast Victoria talks about how her own depression showed up. She also gave me some wonderful tips on how to help someone with teenage depression learn coping strategies to manage their feelings.
How to deal with depression alone as a teenager
Put quite simply, you can’t. Listen to Victoria’s story (it’s the episode from 3 November 2020 on all podcast platforms) to see what happened to her when she tried to cope alone.
If you’re struggling with how you’re feeling about anything at all tell someone. It doesn’t have to be a parent. Find a teacher who you relate to, use the school counselling service, or tell a friend. And if none of that seems possible contact Young Minds, Rethink, or the Samaritans. You are never alone.
How to help a teenager with anxiety and depression
Victoria did eventually get the support she needed, but not before suffering panic attacks at work, and eventually going back to the beginning, and working out the roots of her anxiety with her mother.
Whilst panic attacks in teens aren’t usual, Victoria’s story serves as a warning that teen mental health is as important to take care of as physical health to ensure symptoms don’t worsen further down the line. Listen to the podcast to hear her tips on supporting a child with anxiety or depression.
How can teenage depression be treated?
Victoria talks in the podcast about what she felt she needed at the time, and the therapies she’s used since to work through the issues she’d covered up. If you’re worried about a teenager with depression or anxiety, you might also find support from this interview with Emma, who was hospitalised with depression as a teenager.
Once you’ve finished listening, I’d urge you to go and download this episode of Victoria’s own podcast, The Intention Seekers. In it she reads through her graduation speech, which gave me goosebumps. “You are going to be missed” she told her class, and this is the sentiment she’d offer to those going through the anxiety and self-doubt that many teenagers experience:
You are loved.
How to help a teenager with anxiety
For parents, this conversation with Victoria made me realise how difficult it is to identify and express your feelings at this age, and that actually, asking for help might cost them a LOT! Have a listen to how she first expressed her panic at the state of her emotional health at the age of 12 – it’s a little bit heartbreaking.
It’s also really common for depression symptoms to worsen in the winter months. If your teenager suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) here are some tips for coping with it.
Find Victoria here
Further reading and support
- Why depression is on the rise in teenagers
- A parent’s guide to teenage depression
- NHS signposts for depression in children
How to prevent teenage depression
Unfortunately mental health problems are on the rise amongst teenagers, and this stage of parenting – and growing up – is notoriously difficult. It’s often impossible to spot the early signs of depression in a teenager because mood swings and extreme emotions are part and parcel of growing up.
However, the most important strategy is to maintain communication so that when things do start to feel difficult for your teenager they know to come to you and talk. It can feel difficult to know how to get a depressed teenager to talk, but I’ve often found that opening up myself will sometimes get the ball rolling. It’s very powerful for a teenager to know that their parents don’t have all the answers, and feel the same way they do sometimes. Knowing that their emotions are normal can absolutely be the key to helping them admit how they’re feeling.
Screen time is often blamed as a cause of depression in teens but in fact it’s often a crucial means of connecting with their friends, and less of a problem than we parents might think. But if you’re keen to increase the time they spend offline you might find something to inspire them in this list of activities for bored teens.
Where to listen to the podcast:
You can find the episode in your usual podcast app, on the podcast link, or if you prefer, you can listen online below.
Thank you so much for listening! Subscribe now to the Teenage Kicks podcast to hear about the new series when it begins. I’ll be talking to some fabulous guests about difficult things that happened to them as teenagers – including losing a parent, being hospitalised with mental health problems, and battling an eating disorder – and how they overcame things to move on with their lives.
I’d love it if you’d rate and review the podcast on iTunes too – it would really help other people to find it. You can also find more from me on parenting teenagers on my blog Actually Mummy, and on Instagram and Twitter @iamhelenwills.
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Please note that I am not a medical expert, and nothing in the podcast should be taken as medical advice.
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If you’re a parent of teens it can be difficult to know where to go for advice, to vent, or just to talk. So I’ve made the Teenage Kicks Facebook group, for all parents of teenagers to chat in a safe space. You can request to join by clicking the button below. It’s a private group and everyone in there will be a parent of teenagers.
And if you’re stuck for how to engage with your teenager, this list of things for teens to do might be helpful.