How to Help Teens Fighting Depression

Sherry AllchinFor Those Seeking Hope2 Comments

Editors Note: This article is written by BCC Counselor Sherry Allchin as part of our series on “Helping Teens.” In this series, our counselors are unpacking how we can all care for teens who are facing different types of trouble.


A balanced life in every sphere helps with the fight against depression. – Luke 2:52

This article is filled with references and resources to help you as a counselor or parent explore the root issues that can lead to your teen’s depression.

This is not a comprehensive, all-inclusive list, but it will prime the pump in asking the right questions to discover what your teen is believing, doing, and feeling. It will lead to some good conversations that will help your teen to balance their life in a more holistic approach.

One area affects the other, and when even one area is out of sync, it hurts the whole and affects the emotions negatively.

Often teens have more than one, or even all of these spheres out of balance and wonder why life feels like it is crashing in on them. Think of David and how his life was in turmoil in all of these spheres – Psalm 32, 38, 51, 102.

Helping our teens to regain structure and balance in each sphere helps them move beyond the depression and experience the joy of the Lord and the peace that surpasses all understanding, even in the midst of an unbalanced culture.

Spiritually

A strong spiritual life will help you handle depression without losing hope. Avoid apathy by taking steps to grow your walk and relationship with the Lord.

  • Make God and living for Him your number one love (Lk 10:27, 2Cor 5:9-10)       
  • When God is the only thing you can’t live without, you are in a place of growth
  • Loving anything more than God makes whatever you love more an idol (Mt 10:37)
  • When idols become a “god,” they will disappoint, and then depression can result (Gen 3)
  • Guilt because of sin is a major cause of depression in Scripture (Ps 32, 38, 51)
  • Make confession of sin to God and others a regular part of your life (1Jn 1:9, Lk 17:3)
  • Know that God is in control and is bigger than whatever problem you face (Col 1:15-20)

Socially

Trying to fight depression alone deprives you of a major resource to help you move forward successfully. Rather than isolate, pursue healthy relationships.

  • Love your neighbors – all those around you – as a result of your love for God (Mt 22:36-40)
  • Seek out a trusted friend with whom you can talk and seek wise counsel (Pro 11:14; Ps 1)
  • Maintain a quality social network – Dependence on virtual social interactions more than face to face friendships leads to loneliness and sometimes social isolation or exclusion            
  • Peer pressure and bullying can lead to teen depression; learn to deal with both (Dan 1:8)
  • Seek wise counsel if you have had some hidden trauma or abuse in your life (Jas 5:16) 

Intellectually

Rather than leaving the negative thought patterns unchallenged, seek wisdom and truth to balance the extremes that bombard you during depression.

  • Keep your mind focused on the Truth (Jn 8:32, Ps 119:9-11, 105)
  • Depression can be the result of a wrong interpretation of life – Use the Word of God to help you recognize the lie and replace it with the truth (Col 2:8)
  • Change any negative beliefs with positive and encouraging beliefs (2Cor 10:5, Php 4:8)
  • Make sure the measurement for your self-image is found in the Word of God (2Cor 10:12)
  • Miss and Mr. Universe are NOT the measurement of the perfect body! A negative self-image from wrong measurements leads to depressing emotions (Php 2:5, Pro 31)

Physically

Rather than focusing on how your body feels, learn to strengthen your body through healthy physical care. Learn to see your body as an instrument to use for the Lord, not for self-glory.

  • Treat your body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit; steward it well (1Cor 6:19-20)       
  • Be careful to eat appropriately for good health; certain foods contribute to depression
  • Exercise regularly to promote an active and healthy body, fit to serve the Lord
  • Get plenty of sleep, going to bed at a consistent time; shut off phones at night (Ps 4:8)
  • Understand that God designed our bodies as instruments for righteousness (Rom 6:12-14)

Emotionally

Rather than ignoring or focusing on your emotional feelings, learn how to address root causes that likely stem from an imbalance in one or more of the physical, spiritual, intellectual, or social spheres.

Learn to interpret life through the lens of God’s Word, viewing God, self, and circumstances with an eternal view based on Truth.

  • Realize that depression is the result – a feeling, not the cause (Jas 1:22-25) 
  • You can only change your feelings by changing your heart (thoughts, beliefs, desires, values) which in turn dictates your behaviors, and then leads to either negative or positive emotions
  • Thoughts are the engine of the train; behaviors follow; the emotions are the caboose
  • When thoughts and behaviors are in line with God’s Word, the emotions will follow, producing the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:16-25)
  • While grief, shame, fear, and anger are normal responses to the hard things in life, God calls each of us to control the negative thoughts and behaviors that accompany difficult circumstances
  • Dealing with any negative emotion by escaping into alcohol, drugs, or sexual activity only confuses and causes more guilt and depression (Ps 1)

Conclusion

You are not in the sanctification process alone! This is a cooperation between you and God that will take you all of your life, but that reaps wonderful rewards both now and forevermore (Php 1:6).

We as Biblical counselors or parents must lead teens toward a solution to deal with root causes so that changed emotions are really possible! God’s Word has the solutions for all of life (2Pet 1:3-10).   

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2 Comments on “How to Help Teens Fighting Depression”

  1. Thank you so much for your contribution to the “helping teens” series. I particularly appreciated the clear format style you adopted. Very readable. As someone who has worked with children and teenagers for several decades, I am grateful for your focus and endeavours to help both carers and those in need of care.
    If I could just make one or two observations.
    These should not be taken as criticism so I apologise in advance if my writing is read this way. Put it down to my poor choice of expression. I do love biblical counselling centres ministry and have been blessed by it.
    You obviously wrote with Christian teenagers in mind. However, we need to take into greater consideration that the teens we counsel are often not believers we should not assume they are. Both believing and unbelieving teens need the gospel.
    Also, no mention was made of their conscience. I have found over the years that many young people are bearing the struggle with depression due to conscience issues.
    While you make mention of their need to take steps regarding their walk with the Lord I have observed that many counsellors and parents are very weak in their understanding of the gospel and its place in our counselling children and young people. This also needs to be addressed when counselling teens regarding their disordered emotions. Perhaps your ministry partners could do a series on what the gospel is and how does the gospel connect and speak to a young person’s struggles and suffering.
    I realise that in a short article, not every concern or issue can be covered.
    When all is said and done I greatly appreciate your article and the series. Thankyou.

  2. Good thoughts. . . thanks for your reply! It is indeed hard to cover every area of a topic like depression in a short article! I would affirm your thought now to take for granted that anyone has embraced the good news of the forgiveness through Christ and a relationship with with. One of the greatest opportunities for biblical counselors is to bring hope through the perspective change that occurs when one trusts the good news.
    The good news also impacts how young people will process through the shame that often plagues their conscience. Whenever I get to speak on depression to churches, I often gtalk about five factors that often increase the intensity of depression. These depression increasing factors are anger, anxiety, guilt/shame, stress and broken relationships. When not dealt with and poorly managed, depression is often the result. When begin to listen to many young people, you realize they often struggle with these factors and haven’t learned to renew their mind in a way that helps them find freedom from the negative emotional and relational impacts they are facing.

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