With the holiday season fast approaching, I know that depression and sadness increase during this time. Many of our teenagers and young adults are already struggling with depression. Today, we highlight Dr. Michelle Bengtson and her expertise; she is a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist, podcast host, author, and speaker, who has worked with thousands with depression and helped so many through her professional work.
One of Michelle’s most important points is that depression is a medical condition. Our brains are the largest organs in the body, so it is a medical condition like heart disease or diabetes. We can address some signs and symptoms today, but please avoid self-diagnosis.
Let’s look at some advice Michelle gave us today.
First, we need to get a thorough medical workup because many medical conditions will bring on the same signs and symptoms mimicking depression. Diabetes, low blood sugar, vitamin deficiencies, and even something as simple as allergies can bring similar symptoms.
The sign mostly seen in depression is some mood change. Irritability, frustration, and agitation could be an indicator of depression or could also be indications of something like stress, so we have to look for other symptoms that would accompany that. This is part of why Michelle started by saying, “Please don’t self-diagnose because some signs and symptoms overlap a myriad of different conditions; people who struggle with depression will also work with anxiety, but not always, but sometimes they do overlap. So if you are concerned about your child, the first recommendation is to be open and discuss it and open the conversation with them. But my second recommendation is to make an appointment with your medical practitioner first. If we rule out any significant medical condition, then chances are we need to seek help from a mental health professional.
Take Note of Changes
But, an important thing for parents to look at is not whether their child’s friend group has changed but whether they notice a change in their grades or attitudes towards their teachers or coaches. Another thing to look for is whether or not you’ve seen a difference in their energy level and whether or not they’re making statements that sound like they might be feeling a bit helpless, hopeless or worthless. They will probably not say that. But you must listen to the message behind what they are willing to share.”
Dr. Michelle Bengtson also shared that one of the things that parents and friends can be looking for is that if your teen or young adult starts giving away their possessions, that’s sometimes a precursor to suicide. Michelle shares, “It’s vital that over my three-plus decades of working in mental health, I cannot tell you the hundreds of times that parents have told me that I was afraid to ask if they were thinking about suicide because I didn’t want to put the question in their heads. Let’s deal with that right now. You are not going to put that thought in their head. But by you asking the question, it opens up an opportunity for them to share where they’re at, and I guarantee you would instead ask your child, “Are you thinking about harming yourself or others” then you would have to ask why they didn’t tell me and why didn’t I ask them, and it’s too late.”
Have a Conversation
Michelle suggested opening up a conversation if you are concerned about your teen or young adult being depressed or having suicidal thoughts. She said, “You could say I’m worried about you, and I’ve noticed some things that have made me more concerned, so I just wanted to talk about it because I love you. Then explain that I needed to ask questions because I want to keep you safe.”
You can hear more on depression with our teens and young adults on today’s Warfare Parenting Podcast. We know this is a critical topic, and we want you to know that you are not alone and that you can find support for yourself and your child.
I am here for you; if you need prayers or help, please email or call me: at 1-833-PRAY-W-ME.