Age & Stage
Having child who is depressed or suicidal is the frightening reality of too many parents today. However, there is hope in Christ, and preventive steps you can take to help a child you care about.
It’s 2:00 am, and your brain is overwhelmed to the point that you are almost having a panic attack – while at the same, time praying harder than ever before. Your thumbs dance frantically over your phone’s keyboard as you do searches for “helping my depressed teenager.” Finally, you wake up your husband and tell him what is going on. Immediately, he jumps into action. He quietly steps down the hall, and notices that your oldest seems to be sleeping soundly, so he fires a quick prayer for protection and wisdom.
When you asked your teen how he was doing he answered, “Fine.” Nonetheless, you know better, right?
Because your house rules require all minors with cell phones to leave them in the kitchen an hour before bedtime, you noticed that, while the notifications sounds were off on his phone, he received more messages than usual.
In part, out of concern and part curiosity, then fear gripped you as your stomach churned.
There were multiple messages from some of his school and church friends encouraging him to talk to someone, and other messages saying we are praying for you, don’t give up, talk to someone.
I wish I could tell you that this was a fictitious, cautionary tale, but it isn’t.
Over the past few years, concerned professionals have noticed a radical change in tweens and teens in the United States. Take a moment to think back on your junior or senior year in high school. In the 70s and early ’80s, some of the significant health concerns for adolescents were binge drinking, getting pregnant, smoking, and drunk driving.
While these concerns have somewhat diminished, the most pressing public health concerns for this age group today are related to the dangerous increase in mental health concerns.
Between 2001 and 2019, suicide rates of children between the ages of 10 and 19 increased by about 40 percent, and ER visits for self-harm inflated to 88 percent.
The deterioration of adolescent mental health was already moving in an alarming direction. Still, it was further aggravated by the Covid pandemic.
Christian parents face the daunting task of raising children in a callous world.
Dr. Kenneth Morris developed the SLAP Method to help clarify a person’s suicidal thoughts.
S – specific plan. Does the person have a specific plan? If the answer is yes, go to the next question.
L – Lethality of Plan – Is the plan deadly? How quick would a person die if they followed this plan? The higher the lethality, the more significant the risk.
A – Availability of plan – Do they have access to the means or materials. If yes, they are in immediate danger–get help.
P – Proximity of help – Are people close enough to help?
This template will help depressed and/or suicidal teens and their parents begin to think outside of the dark box they may find themselves in.
Be straightforward, compassionate, and clear. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Be sympathetic, patient, non-judgmental, calm, and accepting. Offer hope. Try to build on their strengths. Be gentle and curious and be persistent, without being pushy.
It’s important to remember, shame and stigma can be a dangerous part of the equation, so your teen will most likely shut down if you come across as preachy, judgmental, or angry.
Try not to act shocked, stunned, or overly dramatic. As hard as these life issues are to discuss, our young people need adults who will listen.
Deuteronomy 31: 8 assures us, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Psalm 34:18 declares “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
The mental health crisis our young are facing has become a dire situation. So much so, on December 7, 2021, the United States Surgeon General issued a rare advisory regarding the Youth Mental Health Crisis.
On the surface, it appears that many kids are doing great. But the dark underbelly, with scary trends of increased anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide.
So, what is causing this?
There are multiple issues, including the rise of social media and that teens are getting less sleep and exercise. Add to that the unsettling shift of moving away from face-to-face interaction and feelings being expressed only through emojis and not through personal eyeball to eyeball interaction. Another scary yet scientifically verified fact is that the onset of puberty has dramatically dropped for both girls and boys over the last century. These are only a small sample of some of the reasons for our current mental health crisis.
You are the first line of defense for your kids!
Raising children is the toughest thing you will ever do, but you are not alone. Reach out to your church, your friends, and your community. God will lead, guide, and direct you.
© 2023 by John Thurman. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.
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