How to Help Your Teen Who is Going Through Depression and Anxiety

In this video Minky shares honestly telling parents – from her front row seat in the drama of depression, what struggling kids need. We were prompted to make this video by the rising number of young teens who are struggling. At age 12, 13, 14 they are feeling lost and confused. Compounding the confusion is the secrecy and shame and almost always, conflict with religion. When you feel like you don’t fit on the inside you stop trying to fit in on the outside. Sometimes it seems like there is no place left for these girls.

It’s hard on the parents too. Navigating depression is like swimming through dirty water with clouded goggles. Nothing is clear. There is no path. It’s just you and the elements. You and your child. The two of you and G-d.

Meet Minky, an amazing young woman who has been through so much and has come out stronger, wiser, more compassionate – all while still being adorable!

In this video, Minky shares her thoughts about how parents can support kids. Below, I share my thoughts from my experience, how parents can support themselves.

As I write this I am flooded by memories – too many to count. Every life is a million stories in one. I cannot tell Minky’s story. She is the hero. She needs to say it in her own words but I do want to offer these few words of advice to anyone it might help.

  1. Therapy. As Minky said  – Please make sure your child has a therapist. But remember – not all therapists are equal. If your child is in therapy, it does not mean that they are getting the help they need. I am a great believer in therapy yet I have seen firsthand how the wrong therapist can do a great deal of damage. Your child is trusting that you are putting them in a room with a safe person  who will understand them and  help them Don’t be scared to evaluate “Is this working?”
  2. Medicine. There is no shame in medicine. I have stood by as parents refused to get their children the help they needed because of their denial. Do what is necessary. On the flip side, even when medicine is prescribed, do not give up your role as the one who knows best.
    You are the parent.You can see if something isn’t working or if the dose needs to be higher or lower. I cannot count how many times medicines have been changed as per my observations/requests. Dr’s do the best they can, but they often only see your child for twenty minutes. We also pursued as many alternative therapies as we could.
  3. Marriage. There is no greater gift that you can give your child than that of a good marriage. Even if some thing need to slide, put your relationship first. It’s natural to experience tension, but whatever you do , do not allow this challenge to destroy what is most precious.
    You need your spouse and you child needs the two of you united.It’s common for kids to do some splitting, often knowing that each parent will react differently. When you find yourself on the opposite side of the fence as your spouse, be aware that this may be happening. Remind yourselves of your common goal to help your child, each in your own way.You will both make mistakes along the way – and that’s okay.
  4. Family. Depression affects everyone. When you are a parent of a child with depression you are actually also a case manager for a house full of people who are struggling. This is not your fault. This is not your child’s fault. This is what G-d arranged so that your family could grow in this way.  It’s not easy.
    Everyone needs more.Even the kids who don’t say it. They need more love, more special time, more consideration for the toll their concern is taking upon them. Very often schools don’t understand this. They can be less then supportive to a child whose sibling is suffering, assuming that the child themselves is okay. You and I know that they are not. What can you do for those kids? What changes does your family need to make now that the dynamic has shifted?
  5. Sanity. When you love someone and they are hurting, you are hurting too. When someone you love needs that much extra, you need extra too. You need nurturing. A lot of it. Think of ways to preserve your sanity, your serenity, your spirituality.
    As many times as you ask yourself “What does my child need” be sure to ask yourself “What do I need?” And as I mentioned above, “As a couple, what do we need?” You may need to get away. You may need to have less guests. You may need a million things. Whatever it is, look at your needs with compassion and generosity. Is this a time to pull inwards and quiet down or life? Or perhaps, is this a time to be creative and produce and connect? What does balance look like for you? Whatever it is, strive for it.
  6. Your Community. When it comes to mental health there is a great need for privacy. Not only because of that dreaded stigma, but simply because medical issues are personal. Still, there is a certain amount of sharing that is healthy and normal. But be warned: Do not expect other people to get it.
    Unless they have experienced it, they don’t know the throbbing constant weight of loving some one that much and being that worried about them.It’s okay. “As your world changes so do the people who inhabit it.” You may need to call on new friendships, new mentors or a new support system. One thing to NOT do is to be embarrassed of your child. As you unconditionally love your child you send a message to her and to your community, of her infinite value and worth, no matter what stage she is at. 
  7. Your Spirituality. There is a great truth that is written in our Torah “I am with you in our pain.” The gift wrap of suffering is closeness to G-d. And the present inside is the person you’re becoming. I remember days and nights in hospital waiting rooms. It was surreal. In that pain. there was G-d. He is always there but never so present as when your heart is broken.
    Remember that He loves you and He loves your child even more than you do.You didn’t cause this to happen. It had to happen. It’s all part of the great destiny of your life and of your child’s life. There is love everywhere you look.