Rangatahi / young people might feel embarrassed talking about their problems and what’s really going on. Here are some tips on how to talk about depression with someone you are concerned about:
Find a place that suits them:
Opening up about depression can make someone feel nervous and vulnerable. Find a good, safe place to talk and a form of communication they are comfortable with. While face to face is best, they might prefer to chat over the phone or through messages. Let them choose how they want to chat because they’re more likely to feel safe if they’re in control.
- Be direct and clear in what you are asking, eg ‘I’ve noticed you seem sad, would you like to tell me how you’re feeling? I care about you, and want to help’.
- Ask open questions so you understand what they mean, “talk about what’s going on for you”.
- Reassure them their feelings are valid, for example you could say, “that sounds hard. I’m sorry to hear that.”
- Show empathy and interest with your body language.
- Do not judge them.
- If they don’t want to talk with you, ask if there’s someone else they want to talk with and help arrange this.
- Let them know you’ll keep what they say confidential, except for anything that makes them or someone else unsafe. If that happens, be clear about what you’ll do with that info. (Eg, if they are actively suicidal you’ll dial 111, or call the local mental health crisis assessment team or go with them to the nearest emergency department (please refer to the Suicide/Self-harm section for more info).
Share your (relevant) experiences
You may have experienced depression at some time. If appropriate you could share your experience and let them know that you were able to get through it, so they can too. This is to offer hope and that there’s a way through. Make sure that you focus on what they’re going through and only share your experience briefly, to connect with them and show empathy and understanding.
- Often when people are depressed, they don’t want to go out or do anything. Everything feels too hard and they want to stay home, alone.
- It’s a good idea to ask them to do things with you. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Invite them over to watch funny video clips, listen to music, make some art, or head outside for a walk. Think about things you both like to do and invite them to spend time with you. Let them choose something they’d like to do. Don’t pressure, take it slowly.
- Suggest that they start with one thing they want to do, then slowly add things in step by step.
They might not want to talk to you about what they’re going through, but you might be able to convince them to talk with someone they trust, like a friend, family member, kaumātua, teacher or someone else they know well.
Consider the young person in the context of their environment
Our environment has significant impact on how we experience the world. Often young people have less choices and resources than adults. For example, they may not have choice on who they live with or where they live, they may have experienced trauma and feel unsafe, they may experience food insecurity, racism, or have difficulty with school/education. If this is the case, is there anything you can do to help or advocate to make practical changes for the young person? This could make a significant impact on their wellbeing.
The good news is there’s a range of effective strategies to help people recover from depression. The strategies usually focus on psychological therapies and lifestyle changes. Antidepressants are not routinely used for tamaiti / kids and rangatahi / young people but may be added in some cases if depression doesn't respond to other treatments.
A primary care practitioner (eg GP) will be able to talk through options and refer to agencies who can help. They may also refer on to a mental health specialist service.