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Low mood and depression - advice for young people

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Our mood can be affected by lots of different things, and it’s normal to feel your mood change in response to different events in your life. 

Mood issues are also really common if you have a specific health condition, have spent time in hospital, or have experienced a serious illness or injury.  You can feel down when things are not going well, because of a new medical diagnosis, after an unexpected, scary event,  due to a separation from or loss of loved ones, because of exam stress at school, being bullied, or falling out with friends. Sometimes the pressure of keeping up with others, or comparing ourselves to others on social media, can negatively impact how we feel about ourselves too. 

Hopefully these dips in mood don’t last long. However, it may be that your mood has been low for a long time, e.g. every day for several weeks or months.  This might coincide with being unable to feel happy or excited about things, such as a holiday or a party.  You might feel that you want to cry more often or feel numb or without any emotions. You might lack the ‘get up and go’ to do the usual things, or just not want to be around other people.  Sometimes when your mood is very low you may think about not wanting to be here anymore.

This longer lasting feeling is commonly referred to as low mood or depression.  We think about 3% of children under 13 years old, and around 6% of teenagers (13 to 18 year olds) experience depression, which can range from mild to severe.

Signs and symptoms

The list of symptoms below are common when you are experiencing a period of low mood or depression.  However, we all experience some of these at different points in our lives.  Depression impacts how you feel, what you think, and what you do.  Pay attention to how often you have been experiencing these, and over how long a period of time.

  • being more tearful, upset or irritable
  • changes in your sleep pattern - sleeping too much or not being able to sleep
  • changes in your appetite – more comfort eating or less interested in food
  • lacking energy or more tiredness
  • paying less attention to your health or medical condition
  • feeling hopeless, or not looking forward to the future
  • having difficulty concentrating on your school/ college work
  • losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • avoiding seeing friends or spending time with people
  • losing interest in your looks
  • feeling less confident and happy in yourself

When feeling low or distressed, you may feel an urge to harm yourself or think about harming yourself.  Please speak to someone you trust or your GP.  If you think you are at imminent risk of harm, or have harmed yourself, please seek help immediately by contacting your GP out of hours, dial 111 for advice, or attend A&E. You can find more information and advice about deliberate self harm here. 

How to help

Keep communicating.  Try and find a person you know and trust who you can begin to open up to about how you feel.  If they are not sure how to help, ask them to help you find someone who can.

Remember it is ok to feel sad or down from time to time, and this is especially true if your health condition has been difficult to manage, or hard to adjust to.  As above, there will be underlying reasons for why you feel the way you do, and with help to explore these, you can start to feel better again.

Try your best to keep up with friends and social activities, or hobbies and activities that you used to enjoy.  If you cannot go out to see other people, try to phone or text to stay in touch.  Being with others can often help to lift your mood.

Keep a note of your thoughts and feelings if you can, and the situations which may make things feel better or worse. Understanding the links between mood and behaviour might enable you to make positive changes or encourage you to seek help.

If you are still worried, please contact your GP or hospital consultant/ specialist nurse about the best next steps.  This might include a referral to the Paediatric Psychology Service based at the RHC, or to your local CAMHS.

Useful resources

Young Minds

Whether you are a young person wanting to understand more about how you're feeling and find ways to feel better, or you want to support someone who's struggling, Young Minds can help.


Support for children and young people online and on the phone anytime.

Breathing Space

Breathing Space aims to provide:

  • an alternative and easily accessible ‘first stop’ service
    assistance at an early stage in order to stop problems escalating
  • empathy, understanding and advice through active listening
  • hope when none exists
  • direction for those who do not know where to seek help

So don't let problems get out of hand, phone Breathing Space, where experienced advisors will listen and offer information and advice. Tel: 0800 83 85 87

Aye Mind

Activities, resources and links to organisations to support young people's mental wellbeing.

Calm Harm

Calm Harm is an award-winning app developed for teenage mental health charity stem4 by Dr Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist.

Calm Harm provides tasks to help you resist or manage the urge to self-harm.


SafeSpot is an app designed to help young people improve their coping skills.

As well as links to download the app, the website contains games and resources to support mental health.


HandsOn provides help and practical advice for supporting children and young people's mental health and emotional wellbeing.

HandsOn was developed by Playfield Institute, a part of Fife CAMHS, along with other services including Educational Psychology and School Nursing.



Editorial Information

Last reviewed: 23 March 2022

Next review: 31 March 2025

Author(s): Paediatric Psychology Service