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Welcome to Belovedgems, a blog about building a bridge between faith and mental health. The author rooted in her faith , her old-soul leads her into adventures to seek spreading hope into the world through a couple of written words.

Depression Among Teens Part II

 Click on link for: Depression Among Teens Part I

I was thirteen years old.  I was a teenager myself when I knew I wanted to go into Psychology and work with youth.  I was a thirteen-year-old who physically developed too soon and received unwanted attention.  My body was of a twenty-year-old when emotionally I was still a child.  Due to the unwanted attention, I would receive I would isolate myself.  I am also the only female, oldest of three.  So being lonely was quite common for me.  I wanted to talk to someone, so I decided to become that someone when I grew up.

I began working with children and teenagers who are severely emotionally disturbed eight years ago.  I found my passion and I am still in the same field of work.  I knew I wanted to pursue this career and dedicate my time to offer a safe place where teenagers can be themselves.  Sometimes their dramatic, crazy, emotional, silly, or energetic selves.

There is one teenage girl who changed me.   We will call her Jane.  She was a 13-year-old, female who cut herself.  She would isolate from her family and friends.  She was hopeless.  She would cry every time we would meet.  She didn't cry hysterically, she would cry in silence.  Tears would just roll down her cheek; sometimes she wouldn't even talk the whole session.  Just cry.  She was in so much pain; she did not have the right words to express herself.  It was a challenge to get to her to open up in the beginning.  It was not encouraging to speak about her feelings at home.  Therefore, she grew up learning how to bottle everything inside until the pain was unbearable.  The emotional pain was so unbearable that she begun to cut.  There is something important for you to know.  Teenagers do not cut to get attention.  That is a myth that personally frustrates me when I hear people speak of it.  If they cut for attention, they wouldn't cover their wrist with long sleeves, cut their tummy or thighs.  Teenagers cut because it is a release, it is an emotional escape.  They feel better after they cut, it is a coping skill.  But a very unhealthy coping skill, which sometimes is modeled by older siblings or friends.  Back to Jane.  Jane was hopeless.  I clearly remember her words.  She told me that by me showing up week after week would not change her.  Jane stated that I couldn't change any one, especially not the shame she felt.  She said this with a tear rolling down her eyes.  She was so hopeless she couldn't see that I was there to help.  I was just another mental health worker filling in my numbers for the week according to her.  I fought back some tears myself during that session.  I spoke to her about hope.  I told her she was right; I can’t change anyone.  I'm not about changing people but bringing hope.   I don’t know why I'm talking to you about Jane.  I have no happy ending for you.  I just want you to see the reality of depression among teens.  I wish I knew Jane is now and see how she is doing.  This job is never easy; it is difficult.  I think about Jane and tears roll down.  Because she was the first client who moved my heart and made my heart ache for all youth who feel hopeless.  Jane is who fired up my passion to become a Christian Based Therapist.

Five things I learned from working with teenagers:

1.    The parents are the last to know.
It was a pattern I continued to see.  Parents do not notice their child is depressed.  Many of the referrals we would receive were from the schools, rarely from the parents.  The school were the ones who caught the client cutting, found a suicide note, a deadly Facebook post, etc.  To know signs of depression in Teens, refer to Part 1 of this post.

2.    All teenagers want to be heard.
Yes, teenagers will test you.  They will test your trust and listening skills.  They want someone to recognize that they are having a difficult time.  They want someone to validate their feelings and to be treated with a nonjudgmental mind set.  Don’t we all want that! 

3.  Their problems are real.
Many adults diminish the struggles teenagers go through on a daily basis. They might not be the same as paying a mortgage or getting a divorce. But always remember that they are real. They deserve to have the same attention and understanding as adults do.

4.   Social Media
Social media is a common trigger to cutting, depression and other emotional problems.  I'm not saying teenagers shouldn't have social media. They are a new generation that needs it.  I'm just recommending for parents to have all passwords and monitor closely.

5.   They do not ask for help.
They do not ask for help as an adult would.  They will not call the doctor and make a
doctor’s appointment.   They will not seek their teacher for advice.  They ask for help differently than us.  They will give you so many clues that they are going through something.  They will isolate, drop grades, cry a lot, eating habits change, irritation, violence, use of drugs and increase of sexual activity.  It is not that they are rebellious, they are asking for help without realizing it.

What to do with a teenager who is depressed? Seek help for them, do not force them to talk.  Seek areas of opportunities that are genuine for you to begin a conversation.  How about taking them to a game, coffee or a movie.  Get involved in their world.  Listen, Listen, Listen! Do not interrupt any matter how silly their story might sound to you.  For them, it is a big deal, and they need you to listen.  Do not lecture, they aren't looking for advice.They want a genuine and authentic connection with someone.

Remember that there is hope.  There is always hope in Christ.  Christ can heal a broken heart and a wounded teenager.  Besides seeking therapy, get your teenager involved in recreational activities.  Get them involved in Christ-centered activities where those who surround them will bring them hope and internal peace. 

What have you learned from your teenager or teenagers in general?

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