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Teen Boys and Depression

Society has deemed displays of emotion as weak and non-masculine, so it is no wonder that when young men feel depressed, they mask their emotions. Young men often exhibit depression through behaviors rather than emotion.

William Pollack, the author of “Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myth of Boyhood,” and assistant professor of clinical psychology at Harvard Medical School, explains in a recent article with Health Day that, “Some of the earliest signs that a boy is depressed or suicidal are acts of bravado or risk-taking, like taking drugs or driving too fast, that he didn’t do before. Often we say these boys are bad or having a bad time, or ‘boys will be boys,’ when in fact, this is their way of telling us, ‘Look, I’m really sad or helpless.”

In the 2014 Youth Risk Survey, 26.1% of high school students in Douglas County reported feeling hopeless or sad almost every day for at least two weeks, and 16% of youth in Douglas County have reported seriously thinking about suicide. So what do you do if you think your son may be experiencing depression? Pollack explains a method that he has found successful in engaging teens.

Many boys are still victims of so-called ‘boy code,’ which demands silence and stoicism at a huge emotional cost. He suggests creating what he calls a safety zone, both physically and emotionally, for action talk.

“It may be as simple as taking a ride in the car, or talking while you’re playing Legos or Monopoly with your son, any activity that involves ‘action’ so that you and your son are not simply facing each other across a table with your arms folded,” he explains.

“Don’t bombard your son with questions, just let him know you’re there,” Pollack says. “If he doesn’t talk, you can give an entry like, ‘You’ve seemed a little down lately,’ or you can share something about yourself. This kind of safe encounter allows boys to open up.”

If this approach does not work and you still have concerns, reach out to your doctor for a referral for a mental health professional with experience working with youth. For more information depression in teen males, please see the resources below.



About Jill Hamilton, The Kim Foundation Project Coordinator
Jill graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Speech Communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. Since becoming Project Coordinator at The Kim Foundation in April 2014, she has become an active member of the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, The Omaha Metro Hoarding Taskforce, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, the Metro Area LOSS Team, and is helping lead a community-wide health improvement initiative with the Douglas County Health Department called, “Just Reach Out,” which is focused on improving the people’s view on mental and behavioral health treatment.