Depression Treatment in Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Depression is a disease that affects the way you feel, think, and act. It causes symptoms such as low energy, loss of interest in daily activities, and sadness or grouchiness that goes on for a long time. You may sleep a lot or move or speak more slowly than usual. Teens with severe depression may see or hear things that aren't there (hallucinations) or believe things that aren't true (delusions).

Don't feel embarrassed or ashamed about depression. Depression is caused by changes in the natural chemicals in your brain. Depression is not a character flaw, and it does not mean that you are a bad or weak person. It does not mean that you are going crazy.

You can get over depression. You don't have to feel bad. Medicines, counselling, and self-care can all help.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?


  • Learn about counselling. It may be all you need if you have mild depression. Counselling deals with how you think about things and how you act each day.
  • Find counselling that works for you. You and your counsellor may work together, or you may have group counselling. Family counselling also may be helpful.
  • Find a counsellor you can feel at ease with and trust.

Antidepressant medicines

  • If the doctor prescribed antidepressant medicines, take them exactly as prescribed. Don't stop taking them without talking to your doctor. Antidepressants may need time to work. If you stop taking them too soon, your symptoms may come back or get worse.
  • Learn about antidepressant medicines. They can improve or end the symptoms of depression.
    • You may start to feel better after 1 to 3 weeks of taking the medicine. But it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more improvement. You will have to take the medicine for at least 6 months, and often longer.
  • Work with your doctor to find the best antidepressant for you. You may have to try different antidepressants before you find one that works. If you have concerns about the medicine, or if you don't feel better in 3 weeks, talk to your doctor.
  • Watch for side effects. The medicines can make you feel tired, dizzy, or nervous. Many side effects are mild and go away on their own after a few weeks. Talk to your doctor if side effects bother you too much.
  • Don't suddenly stop taking antidepressants. Stopping suddenly could be dangerous. Your doctor can help you slowly reduce the dose to prevent problems.

To help manage depression

  • Talk to your doctor, counsellor, or another adult right away if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others. Sometimes people with depression have these thoughts.
  • Keep the number for a suicide crisis centre on or near your phone. To find a suicide prevention crisis centre in your province, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention webpage at If you or someone you know talks about suicide or feeling hopeless, get help right away.
  • If you are taking medicine, take it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • If you have a counsellor, go to all your appointments.
  • Get support from others.
    • Your family can help you get the right treatment and deal with your symptoms.
    • Social support and support groups give you the chance to talk with teens who are going through the same things you are.
  • Plan something pleasant for yourself every day. Include activities that you have enjoyed in the past.
  • Spend time with family and friends. It may help to speak openly about your depression with people you trust.
  • Think about putting off big decisions until your depression has lifted. For example, wait a bit on making decisions about dropping out of school or choosing a university. Talk it over with friends and family who can help you look at the whole picture.
  • Think positively. Challenge negative thoughts with statements such as "I am hopeful," "Things will get better," and "I can ask for the help I need." Write down these statements and read them often, even if you don't believe them yet.
  • Be patient with yourself. It took time for your depression to develop, and it will take time for your symptoms to improve. Do not take on too much or be too hard on yourself.

To stay healthy

  • Get plenty of exercise every day. Go for a walk or jog, ride your bike, or play sports with friends.
  • Get enough sleep. A good night's sleep can help mood and stress levels. Avoid sleeping pills unless your doctor prescribes them.
  • Eat a balanced diet. This helps your body deal with tension and stress. Whole grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and protein are part of a balanced diet. If you do not feel hungry, eat small snacks rather than large meals.
  • Do not drink alcohol, use illegal drugs, or take medicines that your doctor has not prescribed for you. They may interfere with your treatment.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are thinking about suicide or are threatening suicide.
  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You hear or see things that aren't real.
  • You think or speak in a bizarre way that is not like your usual behaviour.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have thoughts of hurting yourself or others.
  • You are drinking a lot of alcohol or using illegal drugs.
  • You are talking or writing about death.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You find it hard or it's getting harder to deal with school, a job, family, or friends.
  • You think your treatment is not helping or you are not getting better.
  • Your symptoms get worse or you get new symptoms.
  • You have any problems with your antidepressant medicines, such as side effects, or you are thinking about stopping your medicine.
  • You are having manic behaviour, such as having very high energy, needing less sleep than normal, or showing risky behaviour such as spending money you don't have or abusing others verbally or physically.

Where can you learn more?

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