Ask Kari: How can I help my depressed teenage daughter?

Dear Kari,

My daughter is 17 and is depressed. She says that she “can’t do anything right and feels like giving up.” She is hard to talk to, and nothing I seem to say or do helps. I have tried reminding her that she is special and that everything will turn out all right, but I get nowhere with her. What can I do to make her happy?

Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,

You sound like a caring mother who is trying to support her daughter to the best of her ability. It does sound like your daughter is suffering from depression and needs outside support. I recommend that she see her primary care physician for a check up and see if she needs an anti-depressant. I also recommend that she make an appointment with a therapist for additional support. A therapist can help your daughter explore her feelings and thoughts at a deeper level, and evaluate the source of her challenges, then put together a care plan to hopefully help you daughter’s mental health improve. I often suggest to both my young patients and their parents the importance of connecting with each other on a daily basis. You can do this by acknowledging when your child enters the room and giving them a hello and a hug. Follow this by asking about their day. Even if your child’s response is minimal, keep engaging them, it all adds up to demonstrating to them that they matter to you. And, as much as possible have dinner together each night (no distractions; no television, no phones, no electronics). Many families are missing genuine connections today, which can lead to people feeling like they are all alone and don’t matter. Simply by taking the time to look at our loved ones, hearing them speak and responding back, we can build stronger families and stronger spirits in our children.


As published in the December 2013 issue of Connections.


About Kari:

Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and a resident of Issaquah Highlands.

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