Depression in teenagers

Discover what to look out for, what you can do and where to get help for teenagers with depression.

This article was written by our community partner, Beyond Blue. Medibank and Beyond Blue are working together to empower all people in Australia to be better connected with knowledge, resources and support to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Visit the Beyond Blue website for more information on mental health and older people.

Teenage boy lying on bed looking at mobile phone listening to music

How we feel usually relates to what’s going on in our lives. It’s normal to be happy sometimes, frustrated at other times and disappointed when things don’t go to plan.

Depression leaves young people feeling down and unable to cope with everyday life. As well as affecting how someone feels and thinks, it can also affect their physical health and overall enjoyment of life. There are different types of depression but they all share some common symptoms. These symptoms vary in intensity and in the impact they have on someone’s life. Everyone is unique and can experience depression in different ways.

“Things I normally found enjoyable would start to not be so good, I would not want to see friends or talk to people. I would feel really upset like I wanted to cry all the time.” Andrew, 18 

What a young person might feel

Some young people feel irritable, while others feel sad and really stressed most of the time. Some young people become more angry than usual and are restless, unable to relax or stop thinking about their worries. Young people with depression may experience feelings of guilt, worthlessness, frustration, unhappiness, indecisiveness, disappointment and misery.

Many of the feelings young people have are connected to how they think. So if what young people are thinking about tends to be negative, their feelings probably will be too. Young people with depression can get caught up in this unhelpful cycle.

“It was as though I was a sink and any sort of happiness or energy just drained out. I felt completely helpless and empty.” Jessica, 17

What a young person might think

Young people with depression describe having negative thoughts about themselves, the people around them or their environment, and the future. These thoughts are often inaccurate or unhelpful. Depression affects their ability to concentrate and consider certain situations or decisions objectively.

Some young people think about how their condition is affecting other people and begin to feel guilty for being a nuisance or a burden, while others worry that they are a failure and that nothing good will ever happen to them.

These often really intense feelings can leave some young people thinking that life is not worth living. 

Common issues that young people grapple with include:

  • Friendships: being part of a group or feeling rejected or bullied, supporting someone who is also struggling to find enjoyment in life
  • Intimate relationships: wanting to be in a relationship or trying to make a relationship work
  • Academic performance: managing school or university workloads, preparing for exams, setting unrealistic expectations for what they will achieve at school or university
  • Work pressures: learning a new job or keeping up with employer expectations
  • Financial matters: having enough money for study and personal commitments
  • Family stresses: family conflict or family breakup
  • Loss and grief: the loss of someone close, moving house or changing schools, the end of a relationship
  • Negative experiences linked to their sexuality or gender identity: discrimination or the fear of it, internalised shame or bottling up negative feelings, and negative family/friendship experiences
  • Negative experiences related to cultural heritage, language or religion: being discriminated against or fearing it, being ignored, and avoiding places and situations.

What a young person might do

Young people experiencing depression often lose interest in things they previously found enjoyable or satisfying. It might be because of intense sadness or worry, an inability to concentrate for extended periods or they may feel exhausted and lack the energy to get involved in things around them. As a result, they can become disconnected from their friends and family, leaving them feeling isolated and at times more depressed.

There can also be changes in how young people eat and sleep. Some young people lose their appetite, while others use food as a way to feel better. Some young people want to sleep all the time while others just can’t sleep, no matter how tired they feel.

The experience of depression can be different for everyone but the things to look out for are ongoing changes in your young person’s mood, behaviours, and general wellbeing. 

Common symptoms of depression


  • overwhelmed
  • guilty
  • irritable
  • frustrated
  • lacking in confidence
  • unhappy
  • indecisive
  • disappointed
  • miserable
  • sad


  • “I’m a failure”
  • “It’s my fault”
  • “Nothing good ever happens to me”
  • “I’m worthless”
  • “Life’s not worth living”
  • “People would be better off without me”


  • not going out anymore
  • not getting things done at work or school
  • withdrawing from close family and friends
  • relying on alcohol and sedatives
  • not doing usual enjoyable activities
  • unable to concentrate


  • tired all the time
  • sick and run down
  • headaches and muscle pains
  • churning gut
  • sleep problems
  • loss or change of appetite
  • significant weight loss or gain

Beyond Blue

Learn more about anxiety, depression, suicide prevention and ways to support your mental health.

Where to get help

The best place to start is by speaking to your GP or health practitioner. They will be able to assess your individual situation and recommend the best next steps for your recovery.

Our team of mental health professionals are here to support you on our 24/7 Mental Health Phone Support line. It’s available to Medibank members with hospital cover 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 644 325~.

If at any point you feel like someone’s life is in danger, seek immediate help. Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for crisis support and call 000 if you believe that someone’s life is in danger.

Further reading

Supporting mental health in early childhood

Promoting good mental health is key to your child’s development through their primary school years. Here’s how can you make sure they’re getting what they need and how to spot the signs that they might be struggling.

Anxiety in children

Fearful and anxious behaviour is common in children, but when do they need extra support? Find out what to look for, and what you can do to help your child. 

Seeking help: the basics

If you need help because you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health condition, here are the basics.

Things you need to know

~ OSHC members should call the Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283.

While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. It is not health advice, and is not tailored to meet your individual health needs. You should always consult a trusted health professional before making decisions about your health care. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees).