Recognizing Depression in Young People

Depression is a common and serious mental health disorder that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It increasingly affects young people. According to Mental Health America, as many as one in five teenagers suffer from clinical depression (Mental Health America, 2023). 

Closer to home, 41% of Clark County students reported feeling sad or hopeless at some point during the past two weeks, according to data from Clark County Children’s Mental Health

Consortium (CCCMHC, 2021). While sadness and hopelessness is different from depression, it indicates that young people are susceptible to the disease of depression.  

Knowing other indicators can help you spot depression early and give young people opportunities to treat the disease. 

If you are concerned that someone you know may be depressed, there are some signs and symptoms you can look for. These include:

  • Feeling hopeless or helpless: These feelings often lead to depression, and so can be a reliable indicator of the disease (Ackerman, 2018).
  • Changes in mood or behavior: Becoming unusually irritable or agitated (Mayo Clinic, 2023)
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy: If someone has stopped doing things they love for more than two weeks, it could be a sign that they are depressed (National Institute of Mental Health, 2023)
  • Decrease of appetite or unusual weight loss: Studies have shown that in young people, weight loss is highly correlated with depression (Cole, et. al, 2012).
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things (Mayo Clinic, 2023)
  • Changes in sleep patterns: There link between depression and sleep disturbance is so strong that some clinicians caution against diagnosing the disease without a hard look at sleep complaints (Nutt, Wilson, and Paterson, 2018).
  • Suicidal thoughts or talk: If someone talks about wanting to die or hurt themselves, it is important to take them seriously and get help immediately. 

If you are concerned that a young person you know may be depressed, the best thing you can do is talk to them about it. If you observe or suspect four or more of the above indicators for more than two weeks, experts at the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health Office of Suicide Prevention recommend you refer them or their parents to professional mental health care providers (Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, 2023).

For many young people you are in the best position to notice warning signs. 

If you are having thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself, it is important to reach out for help immediately. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website at

Depression is a common illness among young people, and there is help available. With treatment, most people with depression can recover and live full and productive lives.