"SpeakUp for and ListenUp to Your Teen" by Jodi Beland, Program Director
As a parent of teens myself, my heart aches for families whose loved ones have died by suicide. As a member of Cameron’s dream team, I ask, "What more can we do?" Numerous friends of mine have asked me, "How do we know, if our children have depression or anxiety?" and "How can we help our kids help their friends?" Sometimes I wish teens would come with instruction manuals. All we can do is to talk to our kids, but sometimes talking doesn’t work. We also need to observe them, ask tough questions, and try to truly listen. And most importantly, we need to equip our children to do the exact same thing for their friends.
Signs of Depression
- Sadness over a period of time without a motivating factor
- Trouble sleeping/too much sleep
- Lack of interest in normal activities
- Substance Abuse
Negative Coping Behaviors
- Emotional eating/Restricted eating
- Drugs and alcohol
- Self harm – cutting, burning, punching walls
- Destructive Behavior – fighting, reckless driving
Instead of thinking some of these behaviors are a “right of passage” or “everyone is doing it,” ask yourself, "why?" No one wakes up one morning and thinks, “I want to be an alcoholic; I want to be a heroin addict; I want to be angry; I want to act in a sexually unhealthy way.” We need to understand why someone might choose a negative behavior when they all have detrimental consequences.
I recently had a conversation with my 17-year-old son about this topic, and asked him, “Do you have any friends you’re concerned about?” His reply, “Mom, I could tell you about each one.” Everyone, no matter their age, should have one to three trusted adults or friends in whom they can confide. Who are yours? Who can your son or daughter turn to? More than likely, it isn’t you. It could be an older relative, a coach, a counselor, a teacher, or a minister.
One in four teens suffer from a mental health disorder. That “one” has three friends that could be looking out for them, encouraging them, pulling them out of isolation, and speaking up for the “one” when her she cannot. Do NOT assume someone else will do it. All of us need to have the courage to SpeakUp.