Thank god we can finally donate Sorry-River City Counseling

I published this a few months ago.  In light of the recent suicide at a local high school, I think it’s worth a reread for parents.

A few years ago I worked with a 9th grade boy who, quite frankly, pushed my buttons. He was rude and offensive, and I really didn’t know if I could help him. Unfortunately, I think my feelings showed through, and it wasn’t long before he refused to see me.  His parents then sent him to meet with a different therapist.

Not long after I learned that he was doing much better. His new therapist recognized that he was probably depressed and encouraged his parents to have him be evaluated by a psychiatrist who confirmed the suspicion. He then started a regimen of antidepressants, which was exactly what he needed to help him be a bit less oppositional and get back on-track.

To this day I kick myself for not seeing his behavior as a sign of depression. Instead, I viewed him as an oppositional teen and tried to help him and his family with that in-mind. In fairness, the depression was pretty difficult to recognize. Still, had I picked up on it, I probably could have helped save him and his family some heartache.

What’s tricky is that most of the time depressed teens look like most other depressed people: sad, crying, sleeping too much or too little, not wanting to do what they usually do, thoughts of suicide, etc. But other times, like the teen I mentioned, they can look very different.

If I were the parent of a teenager reading this I’d probably be confused and somewhat irritated, and I could imagine myself saying, “So, you’re telling me that my obnoxious teenager, who’d rather spend the night in his bedroom than play Sorry with our family, could be depressed? Really! Isn’t this normal? All my friends complain about the same stuff with their teens.”

You’re right; this stuff is normal. What’s not normal is when their oppositional behavior comes with more intense, frequent and concerning choices.  His grades have slipped a little. He’ll pull them up. Then they fall even more. She’s no longer hanging out with her childhood friends. No big thing; interests change. Oops, you catch her smoking pot with her new friends. You ask him to trim the roses and he complains (of course) before doing it. But aren’t those cuts on his wrist a bit deeper than he’d get from the thorns? She seemed to be eating a bit less than usual, which was no big deal when it was swimsuit season. But her clothes keep getting looser and looser. I get it that teens spend a ton of time in their rooms, but isn’t it a bit excessive? Then you look at his social media posts and they’re pretty macabre, and then you find he’s searched for ways to commit suicide and make it look like an accident.

So when you put the pieces of the puzzle together, you have more than your typical oppositional adolescent: grades have slipped, friends have changed, drug use, probable cutting, possible eating disorder, isolation, and thoughts of suicide. You have more than Susie telling you that she hates you.

Believe me, it can be tough to take a step back and put it all together. But if you notice that your teen is struggling more than just being a bratty kid you fantasize about sending to boarding school, it could be because she’s depressed and struggling more than you’d ever guess. Even if it were just for your peace of mind, it’d be a good idea to have her checked-out.

One Response to Thank god we can finally donate Sorry-River City Counseling
  1. elizabeth
    November 13, 2014 | 5:06 pm

    Very helpful advice in view of the recent sad events

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