It’s been estimated that approximately 15% of adolescents experience Major Depression with an additional 10% experiencing Minor Depression (Kessler & Walters, 1998). One-third of young women and one-fifth of young men have been depressed at some time in their lives. Many factors can be contributing to this and they’re not always clear. A recent “Dear Abby” speaks to one teen’s experience. See below:
DEAR ABBY: I’m a 15-year-old boy in ninth grade. I have depression, and I don’t know what to do. I always feel like I’m not good enough for anything, even though I have had a 4.0 GPA since seventh grade. I have repeatedly cut myself, but I wear a bracelet so no one can see it.
I don’t want my family to find out because I’m afraid they will treat me like a poor little kid who is too easily offended. I don’t know what to do or who I can go to for help. Thank you for any help you can give me. — DROWNING IN DESPAIR
DEAR DROWNING: When a person is experiencing so much emotional pain that he (or she) is self-injuring, it’s time to get professional help to deal with it.
Ideally, you should be able to talk to your parents about the depth and duration of your depression. But because you feel you can’t, talk with a trusted teacher or counselor at school about it, or an adult relative you feel close enough to confide it to. Cutting is not the answer because it only brings temporary relief from the issues you have that need resolving.
I care about you, and I’m glad you asked me this question. Please don’t postpone following my advice.
The experience this teen faces is not an uncommon one. Adolescence can be an awkward time where you are growing both physically and mentally in ways that don’t always seem to coincide. It can seem to others that teenagers are often volatile and never know what can tick them off. That may very well be true in many ways; however, it doesn’t negate the importance of how we language ourselves.
With that said, I want to clarify something Abby said. She said that “Ideally, you should be able to talk to your parents about the depth and duration of your depression.” Perhaps in a perfect world, that may be “ideal” for some people, but there is more to the story. It’s hard enough for adults to talk with people about the “depth and duration” of their depression, so to expect that from a teen is unrealistic. Using the word “ideal” can further make the teen feel like there is something wrong with them that they don’t have the “ideal” parents or “ideal” relationship. The teen already said that they do not feel comfortable with their parents and what may be “ideal” for one person is not “ideal” to them. Let’s provide them with a safe space to find their “ideal.”
Another way to express what Abby said is to simply state that not everyone feels comfortable talking with their parents. Doing this may help normalize the teen’s feelings. Before we go into a “problem-solving” mode let’s reflect what that the person is saying. Many people find comfort in a teacher, counselor, or mental health professional. Parents are not always “everything” to the adolescent and it’s often intimidating for adolescents to talk to their mom or dad. Let’s begin to open the door to possibilities as adolescents find their way.
This post was in no way meant to criticize Abby’s response but more of a supplement to it. The fact that she suggested other possible resources is a great first step. We just need to be careful about our use of language and make sure we validate one another’s experience. What is “ideal” for one person is not for another. The word “ideal” can feel invalidating to an individual and leave someone feeling like there life is less than “ideal.”
What are your thoughts on this idea? Did the word “ideal” strike a cord with you?
Click here for the Dear Abby article.
- Understand the cycle of depression and how to deal with it!
- The Disease Model of Mental Illness
- What’s the difference between empathy and sympathy?
- Don’t judge someone else’s experience based off of your own!
- Different types of therapists and finding the one that works for you
- Will antidepressants work for you?
- From Prozac to Probiotics: Ways of Treating Depression
- Stop focusing on the problem and start focusing on the solution
- Remove your inner thorn to avoid less and accept more!
- Lessons in the art of living
- Affirm how far you’ve come!
Rubin Khoddam, Clinical Psychology PhD student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.
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