Depression - Signs and Symptoms of Youth Depression

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call:

Click here to visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Click here to visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.

Notice: This informational website is not intended as a crisis response or hotline. Local crisis hotline numbers can be found in the front of your local phone book or call 911.

(Usually Seen Every Day for At Least 2 Weeks)

The parents of adolescent suicide victims are often unaware of warning signs such as depression and substance abuse and significantly underestimated the seriousness of their child's major depression until it is too late. It is important to take the subject of suicide seriously. It doesn't seem right that a teen-ager - who has lived for such a short time - would choose to die. But adolescents who can't get over their depression sometimes do kill themselves. If your teen-ager has been depressed, you should look closely for signs that he or she might be thinking of suicide:

  • Sadness (with or without crying)
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of energy and/or motivation
  • Temper outbursts and/or violent episodes
  • Easily irritated
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Little or no appetite, or eating too often
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities usually enjoyed (including school activities)
  • Feelings of fear (even if there is no conscious reason)
  • Feelings of extreme guilt or shame
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor memory
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Worsening grades
  • Skipping school or classes
  • Self-critical remarks
  • Feelings of helplessness to change a situation*
  • Feelings that things will never get better*
  • Comment(s) about death or dying*
  • Writing, drawing, or listening to music about hopelessness, guns, or death*
  • Threatening suicide (even in a joking manner)*

When 4 or more of the above are observed or suspected for more than 2 weeks, an assessment by a mental health professional is necessary.

*Any time one or more of the last 5 signs or symptoms are seen or suspected, immediate attention is necessary!

If you suspect that your child is suffering from depression, it is important to document their behavior.

This information can then be passed on to a physician or therapist, who will be better able to determine your child's emotional health. If your child does experience any of the possible signs (listed below), note a description of when, how long and examples of this behavior.

The following symptoms are considered possible signs of depression:

 Does your child express any of the following emotions? Does your child complain about any physical changes? 
  • not happy when doing pleasurable things
  • emotionally drained
  • general sadness
  • hopelessness
  • hollowness
  • uselessness
  • upset stomach
  • change in appetite and/or body weight
  • lethargic
  • sleeplessness
  • headaches
  • joint or back pain

Is your child experiencing any behavioral problems? Is your child demonstrating cognitive difficulties with: 
  • easily irritated
  • uncooperative
  • disagreeable
  • avoiding social interaction
  • avoiding or skipping school
  • abusing drugs and/or alcohol
  • focusing
  • finishing tasks
  • performing consistently in school
  • making decisions


It is possible to have the symptoms of depression, but not be suicidal. It is always important to watch for warining signs of suicide though, just in case your child or friend might be having suicidal thoughts. Have you noticed any of these warning signs of suicide:

  • Talking, reading, or writing about suicide or death.
  • Talking about feeling worthless or helpless.
  • Saying things like: 
    • — "I'm going to kill myself," 
    • — "I wish I were dead," or
    • — "I shouldn't have been born."
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
  • Giving things away or returning borrowed items.
  • Organizing or cleaning bedroom "for the last time."
  • Self-destructive behavior "risk-taking" behaviors, like self-cutting.
  • Obsessed with death, violence and guns or knives.
  • Previous suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.  

The National Mental Health Association (NMHA) has available a checklist to help you assess and document your child's feelings and behavior.

This information can provide your physician or therapist with a fairly good picture of your child's emotional state. The checklist (in pdf format) can be viewed at: Checklist.