In this episode, Dr. John addresses the growing problem of teen depression, which is being exasperated by the prevalence of and exposure to pornography. Dr. John will help parents identify if their teen could be suffering from depression.

Did you know?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 13.3% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 had “at least one major depressive episode” in 2017. That equates to 3.2 million American teens. What’s more, 70.77% of depression sufferers experienced at least one instance of “severe impairment” that interfered with life.

Here are some other relevant statistics:

  • 20% of females and 6.8% of males aged 12-17 suffered a depressive episode in 2017
  • 9% of adolescents “reporting two or more races” suffered a depressive episode in 2017; this represents the highest subgroup of adolescents affected by depression, according to the NIMH
  • 1% of depressed adolescents received no treatment; 19.6% received treatment from a health professional; 2.4% were treated with medication alone; 17.6% received treatment from both a health professional and medication (NIMH)
  • Based on the 2017 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey,4 percent of youth in grades 9-12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months

What we talked about 

Here are 5 common misconceptions about depression.

  1. You can beat depression with willpower.
  2. If you are depressed, you’re just feeling sorry for yourself.
  3. Depressed believers have weak faith.
  4. It’s easy to tell when you are depressed.
  5. Depression is a waste of time.

A more clinical definition and description of depression from Dr. John. While depression is common, is it also very complex. It is a state of existence marked by being pressed down, weighed down, or burdened which affects a person physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. There are four basic types of depression: (1) Biological, (2) Situational, (3) Spiritual, and (4), Developmental

Some common signs or symptoms that a person might be depressed.

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Headaches, aches, indigestion, etc.
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Loss of interest in food or compulsive eating
  • Sadness, anxiety, or feeling hopeless
  • Sudden drop in grades
  • Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Use of alcohol or drugs or promiscuous behavior
  • Withdrawal from friends
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Of course, see a therapist or doctor to get a definite diagnosis!

Do Real Christians get depressed? Are there possible examples of people suffering from depression in the Bible? Can our faith play an important part in helping our teens deal with depression, and how?

The answer is “yes,” and as the church, we must rid ourselves of the stigma of depression. Dr. John talks about these examples from the Scriptures:

  • Elijah
  • King David
  • Jeremiah, the weeping Prophet

What can you do if you think your teen is struggling with depression? Dr. John discusses three of these points in the podcast, but here’s a more thorough list.

  • Focus on listening, not lecturing. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. You’ll do the most good by simply letting your teen know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally.
  • Be gentle but persistent. Don’t give up if they shut you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Even if they want to, they may have a hard time expressing what they’re feeling. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.
  • Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t try to talk your teen out of depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Well-meaning attempts to explain why “things aren’t that bad” will just come across as if you don’t take their emotions seriously. Simply acknowledging the pain and sadness they are experiencing can go a long way in making them feel understood and supported.
  • Trust your gut. If your teen claims nothing is wrong but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. If your teen won’t open up to you, consider turning to a trusted third party: a school counselor, favorite teacher, or a mental health professional. The important thing is to get them talking to someone.
  • Encourage social connection. Depressed teens tend to withdraw from their friends and the activities they used to enjoy. But isolation only makes depression worse, so do what you can to help your teen reconnect.
  • Make face time a priority. Set aside time each day to talk—time when you’re focused totally on your teen, without distractions or trying to multi-task. The simple act of connecting face to face can play a big role in reducing your teen’s depression. And remember: talking about depression or your teen’s feelings will not make the situation worse, but your support can make all the difference in their recovery.
  • Combat social isolation. Do what you can to keep your teen connected to others. Encourage them to go out with friends or invite friends over. Participate in activities that involve other families and give your child an opportunity to meet and connect with other kids.
  • Get your teen involved. Suggest activities—such as sports, after-school clubs, or an art, dance, or music class—that take advantage of your teen’s interests and talents. While your teen may lack motivation and interest at first, as they reengage with the world, they should start to feel better and regain their enthusiasm.
  • Promote volunteerism. Doing things for others is a powerful antidepressant and self-esteem booster. Help your teen find a cause they’re interested in and that gives them a sense of purpose. If you volunteer with them, it can also be a good bonding experience.
  • Make physical health a priority. Physical and mental health are inextricably connected. Depression is exacerbated by inactivity, inadequate sleep, and poor nutrition. Unfortunately, teens are known for their unhealthy habits: staying up late, eating junk food, and spending hours on their phones and devices. But as a parent, you can combat these behaviors by establishing a healthy, supportive home environment.
  • Get your teen moving! Exercise is absolutely essential to mental health, so get your teen active—whatever it takes. Ideally, teens should be getting at least an hour of physical activity a day, but it needn’t be boring or miserable. Think outside the box: walking the dog, dancing, shooting hoops, going for a hike, riding bikes, skateboarding—as long as they’re moving, it’s beneficial.
  • Set limits on screen time. Teens often go online to escape their problems, but when screen time goes up, physical activity and face time with friends goes down. Both are a recipe for worsening symptoms.
  • Provide nutritious, balanced meals. Make sure your teen is getting the nutrition they need for optimum brain health and mood support: things like healthy fatsquality protein, and fresh produce. Eating a lot of sugary, starchy foods—the quick “pick me up” of many depressed teens—will only have a negative effect on their mood and energy.
  • Encourage plenty of sleep. Teens need more sleep than adults to function optimally—up to 9-10 hours per night. Make sure your teen isn’t staying up until all hours at the expense of much-needed, mood-supporting rest.
  • Know when to seek professional help. Support and healthy lifestyle changes can make a world of difference for depressed teens, but it’s not always enough. When depression is severe, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a mental health professional with advanced training and a strong background treating teens.

Call to action

Is there something that parents can do to prevent depression? Dr. John says there are several things parents can do of a preventative nature.

  • First, provide continual warmth, caring, and support. A 2016 study shows that high levels of parental support had lower depression symptoms. Peer supports did not really make a difference.
  • Second, teach and model strong social and emotional skills. Teens are prone to depression due to heightened emotions during the teen years.
  • Encourage positive peer relations. Positive relationships and being in a romantic relationship were protective against developing social anxiety and depression.
  • Encourage teens to seek purpose in life. It is associated with greater life satisfaction and hope in all age groups.

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