How To Address Symptoms Of Depression In Teens: Advice From Leading Wilderness Therapy Program

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Trails Carolina provides advice for addressing depression in teens in honor of National Depression Education and Awareness Month

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“Most people think of depression in teens as the same thing as sadness, which means that happiness is the opposite. With this mindset, depression can be cured by being happy or doing happy things, “ says Jason McKeown.

Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for young people ages 10-17, recognizes the importance of promoting depression education and awareness.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 2.6 million adolescents ages 12-17 have experienced an episode of depression in the past year. That’s 10.7 percent of the US population of people ages 12-17, and one out of every five teens.

“Most people think of depression in teens as the same thing as sadness, which means that happiness is the opposite. With this mindset, depression can be cured by being happy or doing happy things, “ says Jason McKeown MS, LMFT, CPE, DCC, Trails Family Institute Clinical Director. “The truth is, the opposite of depression is not happiness but rather vitality, a desire for living and being alive. That is not something that ‘doing something that makes you feel good’ will fix.”

Recognizing depression in teens can be difficult because depression looks different from teen to teen; some isolate and withdrawal from friends and family, others fake happiness and normalcy but internally feel incredibly alone and artificial.

After working with hundreds of teens struggling with depression, Trails Carolina believes parents should address symptoms of teen depression with the following:
-Be compassionately persistent: Don’t let ‘I’m fine, I don’t want to talk about it’ keep parents from helping teens open themselves up. At the same time, don’t barge in and pressure teens to talk about what they are feeling. That can cause them to close off their emotions. Say something like: “I can see that something is bothering you and I can see that it is affecting your life negatively. We’re concerned about it and we want to help you through this by discussing it with you.”
-Talk about fears: If teens are hesitant to talk about their feelings, it’s usually because they feel embarrassed about them or are afraid of how their situation will be handled. Ask them: “What is causing you to fear opening up to me about your emotions? What would you like to hear from me as your parent if you open up to me?”
-Differentiate the person from the behavior. Instead of thinking your teen as depressed, think of them as a person experiencing depression.
-Listen to your child. Instead of focusing on a fix for your child’s problem, really listen to what your child is feeling and understand all the underlying issues.
-Seek help. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. Professionals can help you gauge the level and significance of depression in teens.

“At Trails Carolina, we help teens develop various coping skills to help with mood regulation for depression. Research shows that both mindfulness and yoga are highly effective in the treatment of depression,” says Graham Shannonhouse, Executive Director and Founder of Trails Carolina. “Because of that, students actively engage in mindfulness groups and yoga multiple times per week.”

Trails Carolina wilderness therapy utilizes the most up-to-date treatment practices for depression in teens, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).


Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program based just outside of Asheville, North Carolina that offers a multi-dimensional wilderness therapy model to troubled adolescents, ages 10-17. Trails capitalizes upon the profound effects of a student’s wilderness experience, and then combines that experience with strong clinical assessments and therapy. For additional information about Trails Carolina, please call 800-975-7303.

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John Singleton
Trails Carolina
+1 (828) 974-1772
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Trails Carolina Therapeutic Wilderness Program
since: 02/2010
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