Youth Depression

Depression in youth can be described as a mood of severe and continuing unhappiness. Many young people experience the ‘blues’ or feel ‘down’ for a short period. When this feeling persists for more than a couple of weeks, it’s important to get help. Few young people seek help on their own – they need encouragement from families, friends or other concerned adults.


There is no exact cause of depression. It is thought that people may be predisposed to depression through their genetic or biological ‘make-up’ and that depression may be triggered by a stressful event or events. These might include events such as parental separation, loss of relationship, violence, abuse, body changes, dealing with sexual feelings/sexual identity, conflict between family cultural or religious values, school problems, put-downs, misuse of alcohol and other drugs. Often a number of these factors are present. Sometimes depression seems to have no apparent trigger.


Recognising depression can be difficult, as many of its signs can be confused with those of ‘growing up’. With depression there is a change in mood or behaviour that disrupts the young person’s ability to take part in their usual activities. If any or a number of the following signs have persisted for more than two weeks they may indicate depression:

  • Sadness or irritability
  • Crying easily and often
  • Problems with concentration, loss of interest or deterioration in school work
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawing from social contact
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Increased anger or aggression
  • Problems with eating or sleeping – either too much or too little
  • Being restless or agitated
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

Myth & Fact

MYTH: A depressed person can just ‘snap out of it’.
FACT: Depression involves chemical changes in the brain and makes many normal activities seem like an enormous effort.

Helping a young person who is depressed

Understand the signs of depression so you don’t see the young person as just ‘being difficult’.*

More Information


      (*Mental Health Foundation of NZ)