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Expert Q&A

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How do I tell my parents I'm depressed?

Asked by Alida, Maine

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I am 12 years old, and I think I'm depressed. How am I supposed to tell my mother and stepfather?

Expert Bio Picture

Mental Health Expert Dr. Charles Raison Psychiatrist,
Emory University Medical School

Expert answer:

Dear Alida,

Your brief question brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to write you an answer last week, but then hesitated because I don't really know what to say. It's easy to say that you should just tell them the truth and ask for their help.

This sounds good and it might be smart counsel, but I don't really know anything about your situation and for all I know, this may not be at all the right thing to do.

So, I've spent a week thinking about your situation, and I'll try to give you the best advice I can. Here's how I'd think about it.

If your mom and stepdad are people you are close to and that you trust, who you feel have your best interests at heart, then I would take a deep breath and confide in them. I would tell them what you are feeling and experiencing and ask whether they would help you get professional treatment. It's scary to do this type of thing, but once it is done, you'll feel a lot better.

But as I thought about it, I realized that given the sometimes harsh realities of the world, your mother and stepfather might be doing things that are contributing to you feeling depressed.

If you are having normal struggles with your folks, it might still be the best course of action to tell them that you are feeling depressed and want to get help. But if they are really doing bad things, and there are many possibilities here, then you might be better advised to talk about the situation with someone outside the family. I don't know who might be the best person in your particular case, but do you have a teacher or school counselor you trust and are close to?

As I said at the beginning, because I don't know your situation, I can't make specific recommendations, but I do know that whatever your situation, it is really important that you find a way to get treatment for your depression. We now have studies showing that treating depression in young people can really produce long-term changes in their life that are very positive.

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