Depression (low mood)

Feeling sad or low in mood is a natural state of emotion that everyone has at times. Life is often challenging, and experiences, circumstances and events can cause people to feel low.

Low mood can also happen for no obvious reason. Low mood stays and gets worse often because of unhelpful thoughts and behaviour like avoidance and withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities. If this goes on for too long and it impacts many areas of our lives, we can become depressed. 

Why are our thoughts often so negative? Watch this to find out:

Other helpful videos about low mood

Do this activity with your child to show them how our minds have developed to be busy all the time:

Let your mind do its’ thing:

Set a timer for 2 minutes

Notice your thoughts. Even if your mind says, ‘I’m not doing this properly’, or ‘Nothing is happening, I’m not having any thoughts’.

Jot down briefly what comes into your mind during the minute

After 2 minutes

Take a look at what you wrote. What do you notice? Was it just a random jumble of thoughts or are you preoccupied with something? Were they profound life changing things or do you now know what you are having for dinner? Just notice.

The function of the mind is to pump out thoughts, like the heart pumps blood around the body. 

The mind does not know what is helpful or unhelpful, so it pumps out lots of different thoughts. The ones we engage with tells our mind what thoughts we think are important and it gives us more of those kind of thoughts. So if we engage with self-critical thoughts, our mind thinks that must be important and will give us more of them.

Developing helpful resources

  • Helpfully responding to someone who is low in mood we first need to empathise - acknowledge the sadness and offer comfort to the young person. It is important that emotions are seen and validated by others.
  • It is important not to give the message that they should not be sad or that their loss is not real.
  • Don’t rush in to solve the problem or deny what the young person is thinking about themselves. Instead, reassure them that their mind is not stating facts and that they don’t have to be believed, they need to ask if the thoughts are helpful or unhelpful.

Have a look at this video for more information on how to deal with unhelpful thoughts and feelings.

Supporting to maintain pleasurable and meaningful activity

  • Developing an activity schedule and sticking to it is one of best ways to improve low mood.
  • The 6 ways of wellbeing - it is important to maintain the 6 areas of well-being as part of this activity scheduling. Even if the person does not FEEL like doing it, just doing it helps to improve mood.
    • Connection: be with friends, family, pets
    • Self-care – sleeping well, eating well, personal care etc.
    • Being active – going out for a walk, bike ride, doing PE
    • Giving – doing something for someone, a pet, your community etc.
    • Being present –use all of the senses to focus on the here and now
    • Learning – challenge yourself to learn something new

Problem solving about the difficult situation/stress

Many situations can be improved by problem solving

  • Once a person feels validated, listened to and calmer, they can focus on how to overcome challenges they are facing.
  • Be clear on what the problem is: E.g I am stressed about exams and think I will fail and that my life will turn out badly.
  • Generate as many different solutions to the problem as you can: create a study plan with breaks included, revise, speak to my subject teachers, be more present when I notice my mind trying create a worry.
  • Choose one solution: I could notice when my mind makes unhelpful predictions, focus on what is important in the present moment and revise.
  • Make a specific plan for the solution


•       Life is challenging and we will all experience pain.

•       Sadness is an inevitable and healthy part of life

•       Low mood is normal in situations where people are under stress or have had a difficult life event. We will recover when the stress is over or the difficult life event has been processed if we are able to maintain self-care, connection and activity during these times.

•       If a person does not recover from a depressed state over the course of a few weeks more help can be sought through primary care services and CAMHS where psychological therapy and / or medication may be needed.

Here is a summary of top tips:

Top Tips

  • Tip 1

    It is important to encourage the person to tell someone how they are feeling. They need a trusted adult that they can talk to: parent/ carer, teacher, health professional (school nurse or your GP). This is particularly important if they are having thoughts or urges to harm themselves. 

  • Tip 2

    Make sure that they follow a basic daily routine and making sure that they still do the activities they need to do and do some other activities that they used to enjoy but have perhaps stopped doing because they are feeling depressed. Help them to plan activities for the morning, afternoon and evening and try to stick to these even if they do not feel like it. Avoiding or withdrawing from activity is known to lower mood so make sure that they see friends, go to school/ college, do things they enjoy (or used to).

  • Tip 3

    Encourage them to look after themselves; eating well, getting enough sleep , getting some fresh air daily, doing exercise and avoiding self-medication (for example using alcohol, drugs or caffeine).

  • Tip 4



    This service provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If your child is experiencing a mental health crisis and need support, they can text YM to 85258.

    They will listen to them and help them think through how they're feeling, and will aim to help them take the next steps towards feeling better.

    Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

  • Tip 5

    If you live in Hampshire or on the Isle of Wight, the NHS 111 mental health triage service can provides advice, support and guidance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Mental Health Triage Team has a wide range of skills, including on the phone brief psychological support and has access to key services and organisations that can offer mental health support to you and your child in your time of need. Just dial 111 or online at


CAMHS Depression (low mood) Referral Guidance

Here’s a guide to help you know how best to support your young person if they are experience symptoms of low mood or depression. Young people will experience other types of mood issue and symptoms which may not be included on this guide.
Hide this section
Show accessibility tools