Dr. Mary Fristad Answers Your Questions about Teen Depression: Part 1

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fristadOn June 6th during our Teen Depression Webinar, Dr. Mary Fristad took part in a very informative question and answer period. We've transcribed Dr. Fristad's answers to your questions about teen depression.

What are some tips for how to talk to teenage boys, since there is such a stigma around them having depression?

Fristad: I would start by talking about your love, care, and concern for—I’m going to call him "Alex." So, “Alex, I love you so much, but I need to tell you that I’m really concerned about some of the things I’m seeing in you lately that are so not like you. You used to be somebody with a lot of enthusiasm for what you did, but for the last couple months I’ve seen you shut down, moping around, looking sullen, sleeping odd hours, your eating has changed, your grades have gone down at school; it just makes me so very concerned about how you must be feeling inside and what it must be like for you. It looks miserable to me from the outside, and I’m guessing it can’t feel good to you. I really think it’s time for us to deal with this. If I was concerned about any kind of physical health concern, quite frankly I would have taken you to the doctor a month or two ago, and I think it’s really time that we just get going on this now.”

Empathy, not blaming, it’s not accusing; you know, “what did you do wrong”, but it’s also not saying, “would you like to go see somebody?” But rather, “It’s time, we’re going to go see somebody.” You’re the parent, and you really keep that—without getting into a sort of adversarial, you know, pulling your cards of authority, just “it’s really time to go deal with this,” in a really calm, loving, concerned kind of way.

How young should we be looking for depression in children?

Fristad: You can really look at any age. Most of my own research has been in six to twelve-year-olds, but I’ve also treated preschoolers, so this can happen at any age. Typically, the younger the age of onset, the more loaded the family history would be, so again the Families for Depression Awareness Mental Health Family Tree is a great way to kind of identify. Typically, the younger the child, the more likely we are to see depression or bipolar disorder on both mom’s and dad’s side of the family.

How does a parent differentiate between when their child is talking about suicide or self-destructive behaviors when there’s been some discussion of behaviors that are prevalent with their friends? For example, a person’s daughter has a friend who has had several periods of time when she was cutting, so the daughter has learned the language but doesn’t appear to be actually cutting. 

Fristad: Cutting is an interesting topic. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the person has depression but it often does, and I would say as a parent that you definitely don’t want to shut down any conversation. So in this case, we’ll call this girl Brittany, “Brittany, you’ve been talking some about cutting, and I know that your friend Beth has had some cutting and her parents have been pretty concerned about her, and I just want to make sure that you know that any time you feel the need to talk about anything that’s of concern to you that I’m here, I’m ready to listen to you, and I also want to make sure that you’ve got a whole toolkit of other things you can do when you’re feeling stressed, and there’s somebody that I’d like you to talk to who can help you to build that toolkit, and that’s somebody who can really help you when you’re having really strong feelings that need to get expressed. Because we all have strong feelings, but there are some ways that those feelings can get expressed that just aren’t as healthy as others, and I think it’s time that we tackle this before it becomes a bigger issue for you."


We'll be publishing part 2 of this great Q&A session next week! You can still watch the archived copy of the entire webinar by clicking this link. If you fill out the post survey, you will receive free copies of our Depression and Bipolar Wellness Guides for Parents and Teens. To see the teen videos again, click on the following link: Teen Depression Webinar Videos.

We are so grateful to Dr. Fristad for taking the time to answer these great questions. Do you have some questions of your own, or want more updates on future webinars and other events? “Like” our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information on our latest projects.

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