Understand the Impact of Depression
Depression is on the rise among adolescents. Today about twenty percent of adolescents will experience depression before they reach adulthood. (Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General). Many more suffer some of the symptoms of depression.
In YTN’s research and coaching we have found that the lack of a true understanding of depression on the part of parents and adults can limit the ability of youth to escape depression. Having encountered depression I know first hand how those who attempt to help but do not understand depression can leave a depressed person feeling more down on themselves and thus more trapped within it.
Understanding and giving credence to their lack of motivation or desire to do anything is essential rather than the natural desire to pressure them to get moving. Such an approach only adds to their sense of falling short and failure. Listening, encouraging and sharing, without telling them the way they see things is not right or giving correction, allows youth to hear themselves and begin to assess their thoughts and feelings. When they ask, “What do you think?” be positive in your reply.
In many of the adolescents with significant depression, whom we have worked with, we have found that one of the main roots of their depression stemmed from a collapse of their internal belief in themselves and their abilities. They had become so negative internally about themselves that it altered their perspective of everything around them. Any youth who is encountering significant signs of depression should seek the help of their physician and or psychiatrist who can prescribe medications to assist.
One of the questions we like to ask when meeting with youth is if they feel pressure, heaviness or a physical ache in their chest. Depression will often manifest itself with just such an ache. At times it can be so significant that individuals have gone to the hospital believing they are having a heart attack.
Adults can do a great deal to help youth address their depression by focusing on what is really going on inside rather than on their performance. This is a clear shift from external pressure to perform to targeting their internal beliefs and desires. While this is something we recommend and train parents to do with all adolescents, it is critical with youth who are depressed. This approach allows for more open/real communication and helps access the discouragement that has built up, often without any outward indication.
Watch Tapping the Discouragement In Our Kids’ Hearts and some of the related story videos in the parent support community.
Tapping discouragement is accomplished by giving adolescents a safe place to dump and evaluate their internal thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Youth who have this type of relationship draw closer to the one listening and encouraging them. This approach can be instrumental in helping an adolescent escape depression. Depressed youth need to once again feel close and connected to others and especially their parents. All children want to please their parents; at times depression can result when youth come to the conclusion that this is not possible.
Today, more than ever, our adolescents need to feel heard, understood, believed in and trusted. Understanding this and targeting the internals rather than behavior and performance is at the heart of the Secrets of Influential Parenting, which can bring about relationships that increase parents’ access and influence in their kids’ lives. The result is more open, positive and motivated youth.