A smiling teenager standing in front of a group of other teenagers

An introduction to depression in adolescence

Learn how to support a young person experiencing depression with this introduction by Dr Eduardo Szaniecki.

Depression during adolescent years is becoming more common. Its prevalence over the last few years has risen, nationally and internationally, due in part to higher rates of young people experiencing social disadvantage and adversities (Mojtabai, R. et al., 2016; Thapar et al., 2022). In light of this, there’s a pressing need for any professional working with young people to have a greater understanding of depression in adolescence and to feel confident in providing initial support – whether they are working in a school, social care, youth justice or a community role.

The vast majority of young people experience depressive feelings during adolescence. In some instances, it may be in response to a disappointment, loss, or a temporary situation whereby the young person may feel devalued. In other instances however, depression may gradually unfold, as a result of combining factors – varying in its duration and extent and impact from person to person. Depression has been associated with a negative impact on a range of short- and long-term developmental areas, such as reduced school attendance, attainment and social isolation. It is also a risk factor for self-harm and suicide.

Adolescents are inevitably and naturally going through a long developmental journey. This crucially involves processes such as individuation, maturation, and separation from one’s own external family and making sense, consciously or unconsciously, of the forces and players that inhabit one’s internal world. This period of life can be painful but is part of important formative years. It is also crucial to emphasise that such processes can, and in many instances, do give rise to feelings of sadness and/or depressive feelings. However, if excessive or prolonged, the young person may be communicating a different type of distress. This can include a sense of loss of connection with internal parental figures, as well as signs that may be associated with a picture closer to depression per se, such as no longer showing an interest in previously enjoyed activities or a decline in academic engagement.

If you are a professional working with adolescents, and think that a young person might be experiencing depression, it can be helpful to consider the young person’s internal world and its mechanisms of defence. As part of this, it is useful to have an understanding of the range of systemic factors that are usually associated with depression, and to have a grasp of what kind of initial support or guidance can be provided. Systemic factors are those that usually occur around the person, such as one’s family, school or workplace or environment. Adverse childhood experiences, such as exposure to abuse or neglect, or parental mental health difficulties, are examples of factors that invariably impact the adolescent developmental process.

In our new course, Understanding depression in adolescence, we will explore key considerations and reflections around depression during adolescence. As such, our teaching will combine adolescent developmental processes within psychodynamic and systemic frameworks, whilst also considering other clinical and medical perspectives.

The course will help you gain a deeper understanding of developmental and clinical depression in young people, a stronger grasp of the factors that may contribute to depression in young people, and greater confidence in supervising others and taking on teaching or advisory roles in this area. This training is particularly useful for people who are not specialists in mental health but who have contact or work with young people, as well as anyone working with young people who they suspect may be experiencing depression.

In summary, there is widespread concern about the scale of depression in adolescence and different studies indicate a high prevalence rate. Now, more than ever, it is important for professionals to have an understanding of some of the common aspects related to depression in adolescence so that young people can be provided with timely and beneficial support – and ultimately helped towards a good outcome.


Mojtabai R., Olfson, M., & Han B. (2016) National trends in the prevalence and treatment of depression in adolescents and young adults. Pediatrics, vol. 136, issue 6.

Thapar A., Eyre O., Patel V., & Brent D. (2022) Depression in young people. The Lancet, vol. 400, issue 10352, pp 617 – 631.

Interested in learning more?

Understanding depression in adolescence will introduce you to important elements of depression during adolescence. You’ll learn about adolescent developmental processes, within psychodynamic and systemic frameworks, and how to identify the common signs of depression in adolescence.

Related courses:

For a better viewing experience we recommend you upgrade your browser.