A major problem for young people today is the growing struggle with depression and suicide. Fortunately, preventing depression involves the same basic concepts as helping someone overcome it. Thus, the following list is great for anyone who is facing depression or knows someone who is. These tips will give you a starting point for helping with this problem, but I always recommend working in conjunction with a good professional like me for serious cases.
- A Place of Safety: Young people need a place where they feel safe. A home that’s safe is definitely optimal, but teenagers also need other groups and people to look up to besides family whether a youth group, a volunteer program, a school group/team, or even the right job.
- Limited Freedom: As much as teenagers want freedom it needs to be limited. They need to feel a sense of independence, but they still need to feel like parents care enough to be involved in their lives and their best interests. Teens don’t (or shouldn’t) want their parents to be like “Here’s some money for meth tonight. Be home before death… or not; whatever is best for you.”
- Clear Rules & Boundaries: Rules are great because how can you be rebellious or live dangerously without them? How can you assert your ability to think for yourself if you can’t question the rules you have to follow? Plus, rules are actually very helpful when they are clear and shown to be out of love rather than dominance. Telling a young person to be home by midnight because you said so isn’t a good way to set rules. Having rules just because ‘I said so’ only leads to resentment and disrespect, but rules that are fair and enforced can do wonders for development.
- Anger: One of the best gifts for fighting depression is something or someone to be angry at. People with depression often have bottled up emotions they need to get out, but they need something that will push them just enough to make them open up. Anger can be a wonderful tool for driving us outside of our heads and into the real world where we stop beating ourselves and confront a different problem. Getting anger out earlier can also help prevent someone from completely snapping and taking a gun to their classmates.
- Something to be Passionate About: One of the best things about having something to be passionate about is it gives the young person purpose and hope. It gives them something to connect with others on and to get them thinking about something other than themselves and how they feel. A major reason young people seem to be more affected by depression today is they don’t have any great causes to be passionate about. Causes like equal rights and antiwar were amazing because they gave young people a cause that could change the world. The most popular cause I hear about today is to legalize marijuana, which is pretty darn lame. That’s not a cause to be excited about; it’s a debate topic for users.
- Someone/Something to Care For: Sometimes the best thing for a person who feels helpless and useless is to have someone or something to care for. The more depressed someone is the smaller the task should be at first, but having someone or something to be responsible for can lead to increased self esteem and purpose.
- Allowed to Feel Emotions: I keep seeing parents who are afraid to let their kids get hurt or feel bad. Let them. Young people need to know what it means to struggle and to feel emotional pain like guilt, fear, anger, and any other negative emotion there is. I’m not suggesting you purposely hurt them, but you should let them feel negative emotions as it’s part of being human, especially when teens are so hormonal. The best thing to do is make the emotions seem normal and then help the teen figure out how to deal with them appropriately.
- Parents to be Parents: Many parents are becoming afraid to be “parents”; instead, they opt to be their kids’ friend or personal support worker. It’s time parents weren’t afraid to set clear rules. It’s time for parents to be okay when their kids get angry at them because they’re doing something for ‘their own good’. Sometimes the best things for us are things we don’t like whether it’s eating vegetables, exercising, facing our fears or anything that’s a challenge. The advantage of being depressed as a teenager is you have parents who can push you out of bed and into healthy activities. As adults we’re typically left to fend for ourselves, which becomes all the more dangerous.
- Role Models of Positivity: There is a lot of good in the world, but we often need people to help point this out. If young people can have role models demonstrate what it means to be happy and positive they’ll see that life isn’t all about criticism and complaining… although these people can be hard to find.
May this list be something that leads to a healthier and happier life for you or anyone in your life you think could benefit from it.
Rev. Chad David, www.ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people