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October 20, 2015

Teens—they’re stuck in between being a child and young adult, and just now beginning to explore their individuality. They know what they do and don’t like, and they know they’re always right, especially when it comes to their clothing choices.

It can be difficult to find the balance between allowing your teen to express themselves through their own personal style choices, and enforcing what you believe is age appropriate without turning it into a full-blown fight. It can be even more difficult to resist the temptation to superficially judge your teen’s wardrobe, as you may feel he/she simply going through a phase. But if you’ve ever worried about the connection between your teen’s style, the subcultures they identify with and their mental health, your gut reaction to stereotype may actually not be too far off base.

A New Teen Style Study Emerges

A recent Los Angeles Times article opens with, “This just in: 15-year-olds who dress exclusively in black, pierce themselves extensively and favor adornments that are ripped, spiky, raunchy or just-plain disturbing may be communicating that they are in psychological pain.”

This style assessment comes linked to a longitudinal cohort study published by The Lancet Psychiatry Journal, which found that adolescents who self-identify with goth subculture might be at an increased risk for self-harm and depression. Out of 5,357 participants, those who identified as goth by the age of 15 were three times more likely to be clinically depressed and five times more likely to intentionally inflict injury upon themselves than those who identified with other subcultures like sporty, popular, skaters or even those who identified themselves as loners.

Birds of a Feather

This new study not only suggests that a teenager’s group of friends or clique may draw together teens with similar risk factors—such as a strong predisposition for depression from an early age. As a parent, keeping an eye on symptoms of depression in your teen is vital. Staying alert to changes—both sudden and gradual—in your teen’s appearance, clothing selections and group of friends is a good place to start. Educating yourself on other symptoms of teen depression will also add another valuable tool to your parenting arsenal. Here are some other symptoms to watch out for:

  • Displays of hopelessness/worthlessness
  • Sudden loss in energy
  • Repeated episodes of crying and sadness
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Mentions of death or suicide
  • Problems at school
  • Angry and irritable behavior
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in sleep habits

A Change in Scenery

If you find any of these symptoms of teen depression are affecting your child for an extended period of time (more than two weeks on average), it may be time to seek professional help. Wilderness Therapy programs are especially beneficial in treating teens with depression, as they provide a change in scenery that’s often needed. Pacific Quest’s structured outdoor Horticultural Therapy Program combines gardening activities with traditional counseling techniques to inspire the motivation for change. As students develop skills throughout the program, their confidence and courage also begins to grow. Interested in learning more? This former Pacific Quest student can give you specifics as to how her time at Pacific Quest changed her life for the better.

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