Depression & Anxiety in Teens & Preteens
Advice, discussions, and reviews from the
Parents of Teens weekly email newsletter.
Berkeley Parents Network >
Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults >
Depression & Anxiety in Teens & Preteens
''Normal'' teen moodiness? or depression?
We have a high school freshman, a lovely, sweet 14 year old girl. She has
been telling me that she often feels overwhelmed with sadness. She says it
is not from anything in particular, or anything she can point to directly.
She says sometimes it lasts for only half a day, but other times, she feels
it lasts several days. Her grandmother suffers from depression, and she has
a few cousins who suffer from OCD (I know these are two different types of
issues, but they may go hand in hand; I don't know). For the record, she is
well liked, comfortable with herself and others socially, and does not have
any bullying issues at school.
My question is, how does one know what is ''normal'' teen mood fluctuation
and something more severe? She has said to me a few times that she thinks
she need ''medication.''
Not sure how to help
I think your daughter would benefit from an evaluation. Her feelings of sadness come out of
nowhere and can last several days. She's saying she thinks she needs medication. Listen to
these things, and get her evaluated ASAP. I am not a physician or psychologist, but I believe
strongly you should hear her comments as cries for help.
I am sorry to hear your daughter is suffering, you must be worried. My youngest daughter,
also super sweet, expressed anxiety over a number of years. I would suggest going to a
therapist and she would resist. I finally put my foot down and insisted we went to see
someone. After her second visit yesterday, my daughter says her [north bay] therapist is
'wonderful'. My daughter is feeling much more relaxed about dealing with her anxiety.
Your daughter is sending clear signals that she needs some expert help. Sometimes we need to
give a little push to get the momentum going in a good direction. I am so relieved my
daughter has an expert resource to help her moving forward. Therapy is expensive, but in
retrospect I feel our family should have invested more in therapy over the years. It's one of
the best things you can do to help your family.
mother of a 17 and 21 year old girl
As you've noted, all teens go through mood changes, & it can be difficult to tell what's
normal. Your daughter talking about being overwhelmed by her emotions on several occasions,
saying she needs meds, & the fact that her grandmom suffered from depression are all signs
that it is time for you to talk with your daughter's MD about her distress & get her some
help. Here's a link to the Mayo Clinic on teen depression symptoms:
Thank you for reaching out for your daughter!
This is something that is difficult to define or quantify. But it sounds as if your teen is
telling you that what she is feeling is troubling for her, and that is something to take
seriously. Teens with depression can benefit greatly from treatment, including psychotherapy.
There are many good therapists in the east bay who work well with adolescents and their
families. I can recommend Carolina Bacchi, PsyD, 510-594-4314, Frankie Bashan, PsyD
415-992-6273, Kate White, MFT, (408) 396-5237, and Cynthia Cohn, PsyD 415-820-1688.
First, pretty sure there is a wide range of ''normal'' when it comes to teenage moodiness
But our experience is that you should take seriously your daughter's expression of
''overwhelming sadness.'' Our teen does well in school and is also ''well liked, comfortable
with herself and others socially, and does not have any bullying issues at school'' and we
tended to dismiss complaints about anxiety -- but after some serious events last year she now
sees a therapist. Wish we had paid more attention earlier.
Recommend you start with your family doctor or pediatrician who can talk to your daughter
privately; help determine if the moodiness is related to her cycle; counsel her about the
effects of diet and excercise on mood; order blood tests to make sure there are no issues
related to thyroid, anemia, or diabetes; and if necessary, recommend a therapist. Our
pediatrician was incredibly helpful with this process and worked to form a personal
relationship with our teen which went a long way to making her receptive to therapy. The
therapist is slowly but surely helping her handle her anxieties.
Depressed 16 year old won't go out, refuses therapy
We have a 16 year old daughter who went from a bright eyed, content, wonderful student, to a
self destructive, dark, highly irritable and angry young lady who was struggling to keep
grades up from the end of freshman year to know (end off sophomore year). When we found out
she was cutting, we placed her in a partial hospitalization program at El Camino Hospital
for 8 weeks. This helped. Since that time, we have had trouble finding after care which
worked for her -- she refuses to do 1:1 therapy or take meds, so we have looked at and tried
other programs, including Clearwater and John Muir. While she is getting to school and
barely getting work done, when she is home, she is in bed (reading or drawing) 24/7,
refusing to come out except for dinner with us. She says she doesn't want to be around us.
She has only one or two friends. Her hygiene is atrocious, and she dresses like a homeless
person nowadays -- unkempt, doesnt change underwear, always wearing a hat and glasses that
she doesnt need ... While those in the outside would say she is doing ok, yet less than
interactive, we feel that she is simply surviving -- takes joy in nothing. We take her phone
at 9pm and she has no internet access after that time. We are grappling with what to do or
where to turn! We have called countless resources, therapists, etc ... and everything that
is recommended either seems to have a waiting list of months or is 1:1 therapy. Any ideas?
We are starting to think we need to send her away to a residential program if she is so
miserable with us, but WHERE? We have to other kids who seem to like us fine, so I really
dont think it's all us!
I highly recommend getting in touch with Coyote Coast Youth and Family Counseling in
Orinda. Look at their website, talk to Alex Georgakopoulos, the Director. They know teens
and young adults and offer family therapy, group therapy, individual counseling, and
mentoring. Our 15-year-old son was on a long downward slide and we searched high and low
for people who understood struggling teens and their families, offered a variety of
services and would coordinate care with other professionals, including school officials
and doctors. Their wraparound approach has been an immense help to us. They may recommend
a more intensive environment for your daughter. Our son went to a wilderness program last
year and had a transformative experience. Our perilous journey continues, but we feel so
much less desperate now with the support we get from the Coyote Coast therapists. Hang in
I have been where you are and it is a heartbreaking place to be. Some teens just won't
let us parent them, and is is not unusual for other children in the same family to thrive
with the same parents. My own daughter left just before her 16th birthday to attend first
a wilderness and then a therapeutic boarding school program. She is now 24 and thriving.
I encourage you to look at our website willowsinthewind.com and attend our Oakland meeting
tomorrow. There you will meet many parents struggling with similar issues. Before you
decide to send your daughter away, you may want to try what is sometimes called a
transition program. These include a therapist for the adults and a mentor for the teen.
Unlike more conventional therapists, these people will come to your home and take your
daughter to Starbucks or to look for a job or on a long hike - whatever it takes to begin
getting to know her and establish a relationship with her. If you truly feel she need to
be sent away, I encourage you to find an educational consultant to help you find an
appropriate placement for your daughter. When you come to the Willows meeting, we can
share some names of transitional program providers as well as educational consultants.
Meanwhile feel free to phone or email me just to get some support. It's a difficult
journey your are beginning. 650-996-0897
I'm so sorry to hear about your daughter's struggles. Our daughter had similar issues when
she started high school. (cutting, bulimia) It's been a long, stressful journey, but she
is doing so much better now.
I know it's difficult, but getting her into therapy is essential. Would she be open to
group therapy? DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) was the most useful therapy for my
daughter. It addresses exactly what your daughter is struggling with ,distress tolerance,
emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. When the teens in this group
experience strong emotions, they tend to deal with them in self destructive ways. DBT
gives them tools so that they can react in a healthy way. There is a very cheap teen
group DBT program offered occasionally through Dr. Patricia Zurita Ona, She's at the East
Bay Behavior therapy center Psy.D. 510-486-8998. This was very cheap since its taught by
grad students. We found it not as good as some of the pricier DBT groups, but if it's all
one can afford it's definitely worth going.
I would also like to recommend my daughter's therapist, Dr. J.J. Kelley (510)841-8484
x1146. I don't know what we would have done with out her. My daughter actually likes to
go. She's amazing with teens!
My daughter also joined a teen meditation group which was very helpful. Meditation is
useful in helping the teens feel their emotions again and to learn to just be with their
strong emotions with out reacting in a self destructive way.
Also, something else to consider. A lot of my daughters troubles stemmed from an
undiscovered learning disability. She did great academically through middle school but
then she could no longer compensate for her L.D. when the work in high school got more
difficult. She was struggling so much with the learning problem that she took it out on
It can help to find some compassion for yourself and especially for her. Your daughter
must be in a lot of pain. I hope some of this will help. My heart goes out to you.
Asperger Teen with Depression has considered suicide
My very bright 17yr old daugher suffers from depression and has has considered
suicide, but assures me that she would not attempt it because she loves me and
knows I would never get over her death. She is seeing a therapist, but is opposed
to taking medications for fear they will affect her creativity or make her not
feel like herself (she is a creative writer).
Her few friends are also ''different'' (one is a transvestite) or emotionally
I am scared to death and feel like I walk on eggshells constantly, usually
breaking most of them in my attempts to be loving and supportive.
Any suggestions for psychiatrists or other help?
Been there, or somewhere similar. I can relate to your fears, for sure. A teen
talking of suicide is to be taken seriously; stating a reason not to do it is a
good sign, but a depressed teen having suicidal ideas is at risk, period. I am sure
all this is overwhelming.
Your first step should be a serious talk with her
therapist. You need an opinion about risk. You need an opinion about having an
evaluation about medication and whether it might be appropriate. (And a plan for
how to discuss that with your daughter). You need an opinion about therapy and
prognosis. You need to feel confident about the therapist, to feel you and the
therapist are a team, working together to help your daughter. You need to share
your fears with this therapist, and see if the therapist has recommendations for
you, for support, for help. Your daughter is a minor, and while a good therapist
won't violate a minor's privacy, he/she should be willing to work with parents in
the interest of the child.
Your daughter may resist the idea of you talking to her
therapist,(lot of eggshells here), so you have to be clear that you are on her
side, wanting to help, not frustrated with her or impatient. You want to convey
that you want her to have a good future, free of depressive thoughts and
If you don't feel confident about her therapist and the plan to help
your daughter, find professional help for yourself, so you get a second opinion and
a professional ear for your concerns (and some support.) And do all this now,
before your daughter's 18th birthday, when you will have far less ability to
intervene, and your daughter will be no longer able to utilize services for
adolescents. You mention Asperger's....if she has been diagnosed, you must already
have some inroads into the professional community. Maybe start there?
Teen depression is scary, and it is very difficult not to fall into feeling
helpless. Be sure to be kind to yourself....
Been thru teen depression
20 year son having severe anxiety and dropped out of college
2 years ago I thought I would stop reading this forum because my son turned 18 and
went to college out of state. I had no idea that I would posting in the teen
newsletter as a parent of a 20 year old.
My son went thru some depression (hid the problem from us in the beginning) earlier
this year which turned into a severe anxiety disorder (OCD). He never went to the
college therapist as he didn't think they would help. He dropped out of the
out-of-state 4-year college(after failing the winter and spring terms),and now
refuses medication for his problem. He has severe panic attacks/OCD that stop him
from going anywhere freely (he has a car), stays at home all day, doesn't want to
look for a job, he wants to keep playing video games all day to keep himself calm.
He has disconnected from all his friends (he had few to start with) due to the
stigma, and doesn't want to exercise.
We are considering CBT therapy for him. But until then, he needs to occupy himself;
we are looking for some volunteer position/ or a place for him to spend his day
produtively until he can go to a local community college. We are working, immigrant
parents, and at a loss how to help him become social again. He has no one to talk
to the whole day. He has a severe reassurance seeking problem as well.
Looking for some advice desperately.
I'm so sorry your son is going through this. I'd put almost all your energy into
getting him into CBT--I don't see how he can realistically do much else until he gets
his anxiety under control.
To that end, I would make it mandatory that he attends CBT if he wants you to support
him. Put your questions about how to occupy his time/support him to his CBT
therapist. Hopefully you can find someone who will help you partner in the process,
so that, for instance, you know what your son's exercises are so you can provide
encouragement to him to do them and feedback to the therapist about whether it's
My foster son has a variety of emotional problems, and that's what's worked best for
us--finding a VERY good therapist and then getting advice and help from that person.
This has been very effective. Before that, we were just struggling on our own to make
meaning of the situation.
My other suggestion: contact your local chapter of the National Alliance for the
Mentally Ill (NAMI). Most counties have one; if you don't like yours, try a
neighboring county. They offer a great peer support group class that's free and meets
weekly (at least it used to). You will meet many other parents there. It will really
help you. They have other services as well.
I personally don't think that anti-anxiety meds are all that helpful. They are
habit-forming, and they do not get to the root of the problem, and I don't even think
they're that effective. This was my experience when watching my ex go through anxiety
that led to being home-bound. Your experience may vary.
And lastly, it takes great courage to overcome anxiety. You are asking your son to
face major fears all the time. Imagine what you are afraid of (heights? tigers?) and
picture yourself facing them day after day. It's hard. If he wants to heal, he will
have to be brave.
good luck to your family
My close friend was in a similar situation with her daughter a couple of years ago.
She took her to a wonderful healer (whom I have also gone to), Leah Mazel. She is a
very experienced and superb Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist. I'm not sure that
her daughter did a lot of acupuncture. I do know that she used Chinese herbs that
were very gentle. She improved steadily and is now doing quite well. The
medications that they had tried were not working and had unacceptable side effects,
which is why they decided to go a different direction. My friend has been ecstatic
about the results. I highly recommend that you call Dr. Mazel at 510-224-5567. She
is in south Berkeley; she is also very approachable and sympathetic. Best of luck!
I am sorry to hear you and your son are going through this painful time. I think
that it is wonderful that you are considering CBT therapy for your son - this could
help him get some traction on the depression and fear symptoms (which could make it
easier for him to get back to doing more healthy, productive activities again).
One outlet for social support I wanted to recommend is through the International OCD
Foundation. Under their ''Find Help'' tab, they have a list of local OCD support
groups, as well as online and phone OCD support groups.
I wish you and your son well on this path to recovery. Please don't hesitate to
contact me if I can be helpful in terms of cognitive-behavioral therapy for your son
(or provide referrals for CBT folk in the area). I also work as a mental health
counselor at Chabot College in Hayward and could give feedback about beginning at a
Teen Hardly Eating, Won't Go to School
For about the past 3 months my son has been really down. Nothing i try works. He won't
go 2 school 4 over a month though he'd always been very bright (GATE student, advanced
test scores, talented writer & great @ math,etc). Though i buy & cook him food he loves,
he hardly eats anything. He still wears 12 Slim jeans. If i ask what he wants, he won't
answer, then refuses food i've made & eats nothing. He won't do his laundry (he's 2 big
for me to do it) & is out of clothes. He showers every 14 days. He only speaks to say
''leave me alone'' stuff.
Some friends have come to talk 2 him but he still won't change. A teacher came &talked 2
him & he went back 2 school for 1 week, then went back 2 his shell.
I've tried contacting people at Berkeley High, from parent resource ctr to OCI to vice
principal etc. A couple of them spoke 2 him on phone (Parent Resource Ctr. spoke on
phone for 5 minutes then said ''There's nothing more i can do 4 him''). Aside from that,
no one at BHS will do anything. They just say, ''It's your responsibility to get him 2
school.'' What am i supposed 2 do--whip him with a belt? He's not a baby that can be put
in car & driven. I thought BHS would help him, but they just let him fall thru the
I got papers from Berkeley Indepnt. Studies for him 2 go there, just once a week 2 class.
He won't complete them. It's been 1 month since he's even gone outside. He goes from bed
2 sofa & back, using computer 36 hrs straight. Hiding it doesn't work. He goes on
hunger strike til i give it back. Thou' i made appts. w/ therapists he won't go. I need
to find 1 that'll come here. I sound like scratched record telling him he needs to go 2
school or else his life will be ruined. He's won't listen.
He has Kaiser, but a psychologist there lied to him & now he won't see anyone there.
Having Kaiser rules out many other kinds of help. We have Victims of Crime Insurance but
most of those shrinks won't return phone calls. I can't pay for therapy
I've taken so many parenting classes i should have a master's in it. I know of no support
groups here & usually they want $20-40. a session anyway just 2 talk
My son is intelligent, loving, talented, absolutely brilliant on computer (he outsmarts
tech support) but he's gone 2 the dogs & has turned into a silent, sullen, isolated
computer addict. I was so enthusiastic when he started BHS, but now it's huge
disappointment. I can't believe they won't help him
Helpful advice only. No sarcastic, smug, judgmental or blaming comments please. I'm
doing all i can.
---Fallen Thru the Cracks
I'm extremely sorry for the pain that you and your family are experiencing. I suggest
that you head straight to the ER at Children's Hospital, Oakland. From the sound of your
post, your son is in danger of losing his life to possibly several different causes.
Depression, Anorexia, Anxiety, amongst other serious mental illnesses are severe and
serious and life threatening. Please have him assessed immediately by a medical
professional - a psychiatrist, MD. To be specific, not a psychologist, but a medical
professional with a degree in MEDICINE. Clearly your son is in grave danger! Good luck
to you and your family!
a caring member of your community
I think at this point you have done all you can do and it is time for serious external
intervention. It sounds like your son is in a deep and massive depression. Talking is
not going to get him out of this. You need to call Kaiser if that is your insurance and
say he is depressed, refusing to eat, and therefore engaged in harmful behavior.
BHS is right, this is not their problem but you are fortunate to have insurance. Call
today, and if you don't get the response you want call 911 - this is a ''medical or
get help now
Your son sounds severely depressed. I don't feel any judgement for you, only sympathy.
You have done all the right things so far.
Check out NAMI - the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. They do free multi-week
peer education sessions. They are wonderful. In these groups you will meet other people
with teeens who have mental illness, and you will learn some coping skills. And you can
also ask your local NAMI chapter for resources and advice, even if you don't do the peer
education sessions. If your local NAMI isn't very active/helpful, try one for another
county. I attended the peer support sessions in a neighboring county because their hours
were more convenient (it was a weekly commitment).
My only other thought is to call your county's legal services agency and ask them what
your rights are with regard to his school. I learned the hard way that our school
psychologist wasn't being completely truthful about all the services the school is
mandated to provide. I remember him saying ''based on your son's outside psychological
testing results, I wouldn't recommend further testing.'' He didn't say: ''Hey, if you
put your request for more testing in writing, I'm REQUIRED by LAW to provide it!'' Legal
services told me about that. Learn more about your rights.
I wish I had more advice for you. I understand what you're going through. You cannot
MAKE a teenager do anything. He may need residential treatment. You are coping with
something bigger than you can handle alone. I hope NAMI can point you in the right
direction. Keep doing what you're already doingâ€”loving your son and advocating for
rooting for you; be strong
With VIctims of Crime funding for therapy, you can use a therapist of your choosing, not
just the ones on the list, as long as that therapist is willing to accept that funding
for the therapy. You can inquire with private therapists, and you could also try West
Coast Children's Clinic and other agencies may take this funding as well. DOn't give up.
Your son needs help.
Dear Parent: This sounds so hard for a parent to handle, but I think you need to act
soon and strongly. Not that I am a professional, but I think your son is clinically
depressed and needs to be seen by a professional psychologist or psychiatrist, and
perhaps even checked in to a hospital or residential facility to ''reset.'' At the risk
of frightening you, it sounds to me like he might be in danger of hurting himself or
even considering suicide. If you cannot convince him to go to a counselor or to be
checked in to the local mental health facility (I believe it it Herrick Hospital in
Berkeley, if you are in the Summit system), you may need to call 911 and have him
''5150''ed, which means having him checked in against his will. It may be that something
as simple as taking anti-depressants could give him a whole new lease on life, but more
likely, this will be the beginning of a process which he will continue for his life. My
heart goes out to you.
A sympathetic mom
Wondering if there is any chance you can change his insurance to a better company such
as Blue Shield. Prompted by your story I did a Google search on Kaiser's mental health
benefits to see if there was a service you could ask for. I came across this report
which says you are not alone in the frustration with their care:
I have been down this road in our family and from personal experiences, help
received from good caregivers, early on, will generally support the best outcomes.
Not eating and refusing to eat as a way to control can be very serious. It is
something that could be life threatening. Here is a group that can help you understand
what is going on:
Not sure if they can help with services, but it is worth a try. Changing insurance with
good coverage could be a big step. Your son may need to be hospitalized, and that is
not an easy choice, nor is the process simple. But it may potentially need to be
considered. It is not likely that this will go away by itself. There is not a lot of
range of services between seeing a therapist and hospitalization. Herrick Hospital in
Berkeley has a good program. If he is under 18 you have the power to sign him into a
residential program, after 18 it is much more complicated, and he can refuse treatment
up to a certain point.
Check out NAMI
hoping for the best for you
Your son is addicted to the Internet. Possibly to a specific game? It's as serious as
any addiction more conventionally known such as to drugs or alcohol. I suspect you are
both in denial, as this is such a new & recent area for parents, caregivers and
professionals! Start doing your research with this in mind and try to find another
grownup to work with you who might perform as neutral participant. Be prepared before
you shut down the Internet or take other major steps to begin the process of bringing
your child back to reality. Maybe a friend of his can be an ally, talk to the friends
parents to let them know your plan to help free your son from this bond. Once you make
some progress your son may be more open to therapy. There are a few in Berkeley who
specialize in Internet & gaming addiction. We had the exact experience with same age
son, BHS, I.S. and therapy. I was behaving as a codependent, as you are now. I wish
you all the best.
Was there, too!
i don't have direct experience with this, but maybe there are some contexts for him
where expectations are low-when you are down expectations are daunting--and support is
high will help?
i was wondering about volunteering at the animal shelter to walk dogs
for instance? or helping people with down's syndrome? get some kind nonjudgmental
interactions from others besides you? some place he can be taken totally out of the
world he's stressed about, and realize there is more out there, and also get connections
or people that way?
you must be utterly exhausted, it sounds terrible, but
he sounds like he has a lot of things going for him once he starts seeing things in a
better way. [i sympathize with people telling you that he should do something, that
drives me nuts too, as if he is following your directions when he does something they
don't like,indeed they are their own people!] it sounds like you are doing a great job
helping him, but it is just hard.
Good treatment for 19 year old's anxiety?
I saw a posting recently about teens with anxiety. My 19 year old daughter has
suffered with anxiety for a few years now. It started out as panic attacks but has
progressed to generalized anxiety - even with therapy. She has been to a couple of
psychiatrists who says she's depressed and put her on antidepressants but they
didn't do much. I think the reason she's depressed is because she hasn't learned
to deal with her anxiety. Has anyone had success with certain anti-anxiety
medications? Which antidepressants also combat anxiety? I would like to keep her
medication-free but I hate seeing her suffer.
I couldn't tell from your post whether you have tried a cognitive behavioral
therapist. These are people who specialize just in anxiety, and who can help your
daughter get to the heart of what her anxiety triggers are and how she can stop
the anxious response. Often people have no idea what their triggers are and will
say the anxiety comes out of the blue, when there are very definite triggers.
Figuring out the triggers is the first step to uprooting the anxiety system.
For example, a friend of mine would say that his panic attacks came out of
nowhere. ''I was just walking down an empty street and wham, it came on,'' he'd
say. But with CBT, he was able to realize that he'd looked up, seen a person in
the distance walking towards him, started to panic about if he'd have to interact
with that person, and that triggered a panic attack. He had very bad social
anxiety, and all his triggers were related to that.
The thing about cognitive behavioral therapy is that it requires courage. You have
to be willing to get in there and fight your anxiety. Imagine if you are afraid of
heights (instead of people, for example), and your assignment is to keep walking
along the edge of a sheer cliff. It's hard. You cannot just sit there and wait for
the anxiety to go away magically. But the good news is that the more effort and
courage you put into it, the smaller and smaller your anxiety will get.
good luck to your daughter
I have worked with many young adults who have anxiety, both generalized and panic
attacks. In my experience, two things are needed: specific skills and strategies
to deal with worried thoughts and anxiety provoking situations; and the ability to
''step back'' and observe/challenge the thoughts. Often an understanding of how
the brain works and how it generates anxiety can be reassuring.
Sometimes cognitive therapy and problem-solving is enough to make a big
difference; at other times neurofeedback can be invaluable for changing the
underlying EEG patterns, or ''brainwaves'', associated with anxiety.
It sounds likely that your daughter is having trouble coping with anxiety symptoms
and needs some proactive tools to help her. While medication can be very helpful
for panic attacks, on going anxiety medications are usually addictive and have
lots of side effects. Meds usually help with symptoms but they don't teach folks
how to cope better, which is why so many people have mixed results. Anxiety
usually occurs when our ability to handle stress becomes overloaded and we have
trouble regulating our nervous system. To address this it's important to see it as
both a physical and psychological response. Some helpful alternative methods are
accupuncture, yoga, meditation, chinese medicine, exercise and nutritional
support. If you do decide to stay on the medication route I would suggest that you
make sure your daughter is doing other things to learn how to deal with the
anxiety, rather than just masking the symptoms. good luck
Teen Girl's Depression/Anxiety Related to Father's Death?
My teen daughter (now 16.5) is suffering from depression/anxiety that is really
interfering with her life and adversely affecting her once-excellent schoolwork and
social relationships. This has been going on for a little more than two years. After
hospitalization in the Spring and a brief period of refusing treatment, we have
begun working with a new counselor and a new psychiatrist. Keeping my fingers
crossed she is able to make some progress through treatment and, if appropriate, new
Reading the posts on this site, I have learned that many teens struggle with these
issues, and there are many reasons. I wonder about the role of her father's death in
her struggles. She was 9.5 at the time, and he was killed at work on New Year's Eve
(in a traffic accident.) He was a totally devoted father and my duaghter was very,
very close to him. (More than to me.)
She has participated in group and individual counseling on-and-off over the years,
and through some of these groups she has formed friendships with other kids who've
lost a parent. Still, she struggles. She's has never directly said it's her father's
death, but I can't help but wonder what role that loss is playing in her life right
Has anyone had experience with the stages of grief that kids go through as they grow
up after losing a parent? And do you have advice about how to best support her?
It is so hard on these teens who've lost a beloved parent. There is alot of sympathy
given to the little kids who lose a parent, but for teens who have lived for a few
years without that parent, it seems to have dried up and been replaced by the
attitude that they have ''gotten used to it''. Heck, I'm 47 and I still rely on my
dad for many things...I can't even imagine how it is to grow up without a dad.
Any comments or suggestions would be welcome.
I am so sorry for your loss and your daughter's, especially at her tender,
As one who also lost her father young (at11.0), I can offer my memories from a
time intensely felt but about which I was unable to communicate when so young.
I wished more than anything that an adult male who, if possible, knew my dad
and whom I could trust would say, ''I'm there for you, if you ever want someone
to talk to, any time, in the way you might have talked to your father -- if you
have questions about choices you will face, growing up, or topics which you'd
like to discuss with someone on your side, I'm there for you. When you want to
know how men think, I'm there. I'm not your dad, but I care. Call me or write,
any time, even in the middle of the night.''
Adults, even counselors, who offered me pity or condolences just seemed
intrusive, especially if they talked.
There were invisible threads tying me to a few of my classmates who shared this
singular fate, but, with no other bonds between us, the scar was too deep and
too raw, the distance between us too far, for many, many years, to talk of it,
and the ability to articulate what it meant way too undeveloped for there to be
anything but discomfort found.
Search for someone solid and sensible among your family, your friends, or your
husband's childhood friends who might take on the role of a surrogate father to
your daughter, not daily, not weekly, but someone spiritually available, as
needed and called on **by her**; preferably someone young enough to be there
for her even ten or twenty years from now, whenever she chooses to call them,
as she transits into adulthood. Someone you and she can count on.
I found such a person at 62, and even though he never knew my dad, it made a
difference to me, even that much later.
I think losing a parent at any age is very difficult. Losing one as a child can
multiply this difficulty a thousand fold. Without a doubt your daughter's
depression and anxiety can be related to her grief. You don't mention in your
posting what impact the loss of this man had in your life. It's possible that
your difficulties with the loss (expressed and unexpressed) are also
contributing to your daughter's state of unhappiness. I would suggest you both
consult a therapist who specializes in issues related to grief. Joan Monheit,
MSW 845-1557 and Howard Lunche MSW, LCSW 841-2930 are both compassionate,
amazing counselors who ''specialize'' in grief. I recommend both of them highly
and encourage you to consider calling one of them. Wishing you, and your
daughter, all the best.
I would like to hear some encouraging words from any parents out there who
have children who have gotten through teenage depression. My 16 year old is
smart, does well in school, but gets the blues pretty bad and worries a lot.
She was on pretty high levels of Prozac but the depressive mood dumps became
pretty frequent and she had bad insomnia. The Psychiatrist prescribed
medication that promotes sleep but increases appetite and she has gained a lot
of weight, making her feel worse. Her mood is slightly better now that she is
getting sleep, but she still gets dumps. Does it get better?
I was super depressed in high school and did get over it. Probably the
worst was 15-17 years. By 18 I was much better. Years later I figured out
that a lot of it was hormones. No doctor ever asked about hormones or
mentioned that. They tested for everything under the sun. I was also at
times on birth control pills which I believe made it much worse. Teenagers
aren't as in tune with their bodies, so they don't see these shifts. When I
got into exercise at around age 22, that was when things really changed for
good for me and I started understanding how alive and energetic someone
could feel. I don't think an anti-depressant would have been good for me -
even though I was suicidal. Maybe something that brought my energy up - but
if it's a hormonal issue then addressing that might have helped. Anyway -
I'm not at all trying to diagnose your daughter - I am not in the medical
field - but just sharing my own experience. Good luck!
was there and found myself
My son was severely depressed in high school and now at age 21 he no longer
is. I think partly growing out of it (his psychiatrist told us he likely
would), partly not smoking pot anymore, and partly exercising a lot. We used
to always tell him to exercise but of course that went nowhere.
If your daughter is open to it, try telling her it is a way to feel much
For whatever it's worth, here's my family's story. My son was diagnosed in
8th grade with a variety of things and depression was the only thing all the
Doctors could agree upon. From the beginning to now, he was given quite a
mix of medications which often counter acted upon the others. Some
medicines made him sleepy, some created anger, some increased his appetite
and in one year he gained 40 pounds, which I was told, was not related to
his medicine. Over these almost 4 grueling years, 2 hospitalizations, 3
psychiatrists later and many sleepless nights, calm has been restored to our
home. My son continues to take medicines but the dose appears to be
addressing his needs. If I were to say what made the difference that would
be hard, because my son desperately wanted to get better and did whatever
his Doctors recommended. I think honestly it was finding someone who took
the time with him and allowing him the time to grow and mature through this.
My husband and I also put our lives on hold throughout all of this. For his
safety, we never let him remain alone for long periods of time and we
continually reinforced our unconditional love and suport. This was a hard
battle and as we approach college, we are never far from what we overcame,
and assessing where he is.
I wish you good luck, but sometimes, you just have to wait it out and devote
everything at your disposal to this. Talk to everyone you can, ask
questions, take notes so you have a record of why medications is being
prescribed. Having great insurance also helps.
You may want to consider homeopathic treatment for your teenage daughter.
Homeopathy offers a holistic, drug-free approach to depression (along with
many other issues, because it addresses the mental, emotional and physical
aspects of a person simultaneously). As a homeopathic educator, (former)
practitioner and mother of two teens, I can testify wholeheartedly that it
Edi Pfeiffer is a wonderful practitioner in Berkeley who treats many
children and adolescents: http://www.berkeleyhomeopathy.com/ Please take a
few minutes to check out her website, it is worth knowing about this very
effective and healthy alternative to prescription drug treatment.
I see people saying it does get better and not to put their child
on medication. I hope it will get better and medication is by no means the
best option for everyone, it should be considered. I was severely
depressed since I was a small child and medication in high school would
have saved me years of suicidal thought. As it was, I didn't get relief
(through medication) until I was 30. so please think about it.
My son has told me he dislikes his new school,but missing 2-3
days at a time when he's not sick (he was sick maybe 1 day) is
not acceptable. Even on weekends, it is excruciating to get him
out of bed. We go do fun
things as much as possible but sometimes there is too much
homework or we have too much to do here at home. He has friends
at school but since we live some distance away he only see them
there. Previously he was
an excellent student & usually kept up with the homework He does
not have insurance & I was told to try Berkeley Mental Health.
I'd like to hear of other's experiences w/that. It is scary to
use facilities like that. I am
not sure what else to do. Any suggestions would be helpful.
Our kid did this too. I went in and spoke to his Counselor who said,
''Where have YOU been?'' She helped us get him hooked up with
independent study and was able to get his diploma (not a GED, but a
dipoloma). He loved the tiny classes and one on one attention. This
is what they do with actors and dancers with erratic schedules.
He is now at University, back on track. Hang in there..... teen
years are a pain in the ass!!!! But kids in college are WONDERFUL
He sounds like he may be depressed. You said he doesn't have
insurance, but you should check into Healthy Families which provides
health insurance for low income kids.
Also it may just be that his new school is not a good fit for
him and he is not having a good experience there. Can you change
Teens need at least 9 hours of sleep to be adequately rested and
school schedules are notoriously hard on teens. I would wonder
whether your son is staying up too late. Without adequate sleep, if
there is anything negative or aversive going on at school, such as
learning disabilities, social pressures, or bullying, getting up to
go to school can seem overwhelming. Similarly, if your son is
depressed, the combination of depression and fatigue can make school
seem too much to deal with. Whether the issue is one of inadequate
sleep or sleep disorder such as insomnia, sometimes there are
nighttime behavioral issues to consider, such as compulsive gaming,
internet chatting, substance abuse or pornography. Finally, family
dynamics may be a factor as well.
I would suggest having a mental health professional evaluate your
son. As you mentioned, Berkeley Mental Health is one possibility. UC
Berkeley also has a clinic associated with their graduate school of
clinical psychology. Other options are Children's Hospital Oakland,
WestCoast Children's Clinic, Wright Institute Clinic and the Ann
Martin Center. You may wish to inquire about getting your son on
Medi-Cal insurance or Healthy Families. Best of luck to you and your
It sounds like you live in Berkeley. If your son goes to Berkeley
High, there is a health center on campus and he can get counseling
through the health center. I'd also talk to his counselor to get more
Mental Health is as important or even more so than any other type of
health. The reason this is scary is because there is still so much
stigma attached to this area. Once there was stigma if you had cancer
or needed glasses. Hopefully most of us are past that and get
preventive care, or seek appropriate medical attention as needed.
Personally I would be more terrified of what is coming next, and the
thought that my teenager is living in a bed.
If he had signs of appendicitis what would you do? I had a friend who
had to go to a doctor three times with a pain in her side. The doctor
kept telling her she was fine, and she was imagining that she was
ill. The third time her husband went with her. The doctor had a
shouting match with her husband and threw them out and said ''Get out
and go to an emergency room.'' It saved her life. Getting help is
often not easy but do what you need to do.
Berkeley Mental Health seems like an option. If you can't manage it on
your own get a friend or a family member to help you. Maybe someone on
this list would volunteer.
Not sure why your son does not have health insurance, but have you
looked into this? http://www.healthyfamilies.ca.gov/Home/default.aspx
It covers children up to 18 and covers Mental Health services as well.
Mental Health issues like many health issues are best handled as early
as possible by trained professionals.
If your son is hard to get out of bed on weekends too, you may want
to ask yourself the following questions:
1. Does he sleep 7.5 hours per day? If not he is sleep deprived.
Work with him that he gets 7.5 hours sleep per day. Your body
detoxes while you sleep. Sleep is at least as important than the
2. Are computer and cell phone in his room? Is he active late with
these? Computer and cell phone leave the room at 9pm. Also unplug
appliances in the room. Without electro-magnetic waves, the body is
3. Does he have a healthy diet? On a daily basis, does he get Omega
3, Vitmain D & C and more importantly, B6&12 with folic acid? If
4. Does he drink or smoke? Energy and motivation robbers.
5. Is he depressed? That would be my last question. All other things
should be in place first as a basis for good daily energy. He should
have opportunities to see friends outside of school for a deeper
connection. I would make time available to drive him/them.
Our 17 year old has some long standing anxiety and depression issues.
In the last month, she has not been able to go to school, has been
hospitalized briefly for anxiety and depression and has tried two day
treatment programs that did not work for her. She is getting more
depressed, and finding it more difficult to do daily tasks like
grooming or even to leave the house for appointments. She describes
herself as very afraid, even when there is no clear source for her
anxiety. She has had many years of therapy, medication and family
therapy. She has had several neuropsych evals.
Many consultants are recommending residential treatment programs.
These programs are very scary to us - they don't allow the teen to
have contact with the parents for several weeks, for instance. These
programs are not the wilderness type- they are supposed to more
gentle, for anxious NON-acting out kids. Still, the restrictions on
contact are a big concern to us. Please contact us directly with any
information you might have.
This does not speak directly to your question about residential
treatment programs but I totally understand your discomfort with no
contact allowed. I' like to throw a few other ideas into the mix.
Is this perhaps hormonally related? Has she been evaluated by a
physician? Does she perhaps have PMDD (premenstrual disphoric
disorder)? Now that I have passed through menopause I realize in
hindsight that I had this undiagnosed condition for 40+ years and it
basically robbed me of my life (2.5 weeks of every month spent in
misery). I can see it clearly now but not while in the thick of it.
To finally have some emotional calm and physical relief is amazing.
Not one physician or therapist over all of those years ever asked me
about the quality of my periods nor did it ever occur to me to mention
it (part of the depression and feeling absolutely like a crazy person
associated with it I suppose). In any event, perhaps if you haven't
considered this possibility, you might.
Also, my young adult son has been hospitalized twice (3 days each
time) over the last year for depression/suicidal ideation/delusional
thinking. He's now living at home with us, is taking his meds, is
seeing an excellent therapist twice a week, and I am insisting that he
get vigorous exercise (which both my husband and I model as well)
several times a week, and we're eating very healthfully (as we usually
have). It took several months for him to stabilize, but he is on the
How is her diet? Has she been tested for food allergies? Based on
what you write I assume she's not exercising, but maybe you can
somehow encourage her to do so, maybe joining you in a bike ride for
example for starters.
My husband suffered from anxiety and panic attacks (and high blood
pressure) all of which have been completely eliminated since we joined
the gym (Positive Motion Personal Training Studio to be exact) a year
and a half ago. I can clearly see the enormous benefits that vigorous
exercise has given each of us in different ways. It was quite a feat
to get my son (re)started on an exercise regimin, but it has become
easier as he's seen the benefits and he's now doing it on his own.
I apologize if this reply is rather scattered - just some other ideas.
Best wishes for a happy resolution for your beloved child.
After reading the March 2008 posting ''Depressed 15 year old'', and
the replies, I am curious what path the parent chose and whether there
was any progress. I was in exactly the same situation with my son,
then 15 also. By Fall, 2008, however, my son agreed to attend a
boarding school on the East Coast. By Spring, 2009, it seemed there
was a miraculous turnaround, and it was truly amazing. Unfortunately,
the past year at this school has been one of great difficulty and
disappointment with my son refusing to participate and eventually
being sent home. Now, as he approaches age 18 in less than 2 months,
and returns to doing nothing all day but look at the computer in his
room, he has refused to complete his studies from the boarding school,
which he can do at home through the Summer in order to gain credit for
his junior year. Instead, he says that he will wait until he is 18 and
then move out on his own. Having experienced what seemed to be a
lasting solution in Spring, 2009, and then to watch my son devolve
back to depression, anxiety and lack of motivation, I remain at a
loss as to what to do for him.
You are right to be concerned. Medication is a very useful tool but
it requires a commitment to work collaboratively with the
psychiatrist to find the right drug and dosage. It would be worth it
to try again, perhaps with a different psychiatrist. These problems
rarely get better on their own. Your son likely has some distorted
ideas about medication and is lacking important information about
the benefits. Leaving depression untreated can have lasting effects
on the brain (not to mention one's life), some of which have been
shown to be reversible with treatment (medication and therapy).
There is likely more to this picture than depression or other mood
disorder (bipolar), but it can be difficult for a depressed teen,
especially a male, to convey what is going on in his internal
world. It may be helpful for your son to have a thorough
psychodiagnostic assessment, involving objective and projective
testing, clinical interviews and self-report questionaires. This
would be done by a clinical psychologist specializing in assessment
Best of luck to you and your family.
Im struggling with a teen (17) who will not shower, shave,or change
his clothes. He is struggling at school, and will not meet with a
counselor or a doctor/therapist. He also refuses to take any
medication. Our insurance is Kaiser. We are willing to change it if
needed. We are helplessly watching our only son decline slowly before
our eyes. Any suggestion will be apppreciated.
Why don't you go to a counselor first, and see what advice they can
give you on how to deal with it. He is showing classic signs of
depression, about which there have been numerous articles recently in
the news. See if you can find some on the internet or library.
But the first thing is for you to find out the root cause, and in that
I think a counselor will be your best resource - for you at least, if
your son is refusing to go himself. Don't give up!
First, know you are not alone. Unfortunately, a number of teens are
going through things like this, our son one of them as well, who was
also suffering from severe depression. He is doing better now, but it
took removing him from his high school, moving to home schooling
(through the school system - you may be able to get the school to do
an evaluation), intensive psychotherapy and medication. We had to
consider the idea of hospitalization, but fortunately he has so far
been willing to go along with the treatment. If necessary you may need
to take your son to the ER for this, certainly, based on what you are
describing, if you think there is any danger he could harm himself
(our son tried something along those lines, which we never thought
could happen, and luckily he was ok), but you may need to make
something happen with your son to avoid that possibility. We feel for
you very much. Call Kaiser and tell them how serious this is, or just
bring him in for an evaluation. He is still 17, and a minor, and you
are still able to make him do this. He can catch up school later, but
now it sounds like you just need to make sure he is safe, and kids do
get better with the right treatment- so far, thank goodness, our son
Dad and Mom in a similar position
I'm the mom of a teenager with clinical depression. I empathize with
you; helping a depressed teen can be tough.
There's an innovative organization in Alameda County that can help
with just the situation you describe: being a family member or
caregiver of someone in Alameda County with a serious emotional
disturbance who can't or won't seek treatment on his or her own. It's
called the Family Education and Resource Center (FERC). All staff,
including the five Family Advocates, have first-hand experience as
family members/caregivers of people with mental illness.
I'm using FERC right now to advocate for my teen daughter's best
friend. I've spoken with Annie, a Family Advocate, who was warm and
To get help, just call 1-888-896-3372 and ask to speak with Annie or
Best wishes to you and your son. You're on the right path to helping
Please, please call Kaiser; they can help your teen in crisis. You
can either call the pediatrics department (relevant till age 18;
they do understand teen depression): 510 752-1200. If you don't
like your teen's pediatrician, you can easily change. You could ask
the office which pediatricans are particularly good with male teens.
Or you can call Child and Family Psychiatry: 510 752-1075 (press #1
for English; then press #2 for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry). I
would call ASAP--before it gets to a severe crisis level. If your
son talks at all about suicide (or starts giving away his music
collection or engages in other obviously self-destructive behavior),
take is very seriously and get immediate, emergency help (911).
Also, can you find out what he is viewing, if anything, online? An
isolated, depressed teen is so vulnerable to any influence; the Web
can offer really destructive messaging. It may be that your son
is ''just'' experiencing a ''normal'' episodic teen yuck period that
will soon pass; or it may be more severe, with suicidal
possibilities if he's deeply depressed. He needs intervention
regardless of the severity of his depression. And you need
professional help; you cannot do this alone. I am so sorry that you
are experiencing this. Best of luck to you.
My 17 year old daughter was on Accutane for about 6 weeks when she had
a depressive episode, she told us that she had been feeling depressed
before the Accutane and really wanted to stay on it and finish the
course of 5 months. She was being seen by a CBT as well as the school
therapist, so the dermatologist said it would be fine to stay on the
Accutane. Long story short, things got worse. She is off the
Accutane and now on an Antidepressant. Things do see better, however,
we still have bad days. I am not completely happy with the
psychotherapist she is seeing... I was wondering if anyone could
recommend someone who has helped their child with depression issues.
We live in Walnut Creek, so I would like to find someone on this side
of the tunnel if possible, but I will travel if necessary. Thank you.
I'm sorry to hear that you're struggling with a depression issue in
your daughter. My daughter (who is now 22)had lots of issues in
high school, depression being one of them. We had a few local
therapists but the best one, and the one that my daughter still sees
occasionally when she's home, is Dr. Tim Browne (he's a
psychologist, not a medical doctor). His practice is in Lafayette
and he's quite good. His number is (925) 937-3999. I don't know if
he's taking new patients but it might be worth a call to see what
his thoughts are. The biggest thing as he might tell you is that
your daughter needs to want the help in order for therpay to really
work. But, he manages to get a good rapport with kids so it might
be worth a try.
You might want to try either Teresa Fleury or David Franklin, both with
offices in Walnut
Creek. I have to say I've seen some very significant depressions caused by
(or at least
correlated with) Accutane usage (See for example ''New Accutane Warnings:
Patients Must Be Told of Possible Depression and Psychiatric Side Effects''
In some cases, it has taken a long time for the depression to lift after
Accutane. Personally I've seen both situations (where depression lifted
and where the depression was very persistent). The Accutane use may have
underlying vulnerability to depression (i.e., one version of the ''kindling''
the development of mood disorders). Finally, it's important to find a
psychiatrist who are skilled in working both with mood disorders AND working
Best of luck!
I have a 16 year old teen suffering from depression and anxiety
that's been resistant to treatment. Her therapist thinks she should
get a full battery of psych testing to see what the main problem is
or if there's something we are missing. We live in the East Bay. Is
there anyone out there that's good? I thought this type of testing
was more for checking for ADHD or Dyslexia but the therapist thinks
it can help. My poor girl is suffering and wants desperately to know
what's going on with her so she can work on dealing with it. Please
A full testing battery for a teen, usually comprising several
different types of tests plus clinical interview with parents and
child, will cover both cognitive and social-emotional/personality
functioning. Occasionally, testing will reveal something that
suggests a need for more in-depth testing. More commonly, the
testing provides a wealth of information that can help the person
understand themselves better, work with their strengths and
weaknesses. The report should include recommendations for next steps
such as psychotherapy, school accomodations or whatever else is
I can recommend Erin Rosenblatt, PhD (510)867-4062 and Stacey
Nelson, PhD (415) 257-0702. I am a psychologist and have worked with
each of them in a professional context. They are both very warm,
knowledgeable and tend to take a more collaborative approach.
Local clinics such as UCB Psychology Clinic, Ann Martin Center and
WestCoast Children's Clinic also offer testing by interns and post-
docs; this can be a great option but can take longer as the interns
are using it as a learning process and take the testing data to
seminars and supervision.
Jessica Lipkind is excellent. She is intelligent, experienced and compassionate,
and she is
cognizant of the costs that can accrue and the burden that this can put on
therefore she really tries to tailor the testing so as not to incur unnecessary
Everyone I know who has experienced her has nothing but positive things to say.
parent of teen
My son was recently diagnosed with severe depression and is
currently taking ambilify, prozac and xanax for panic. We go to a
psychiatrist for medication management only. Both my husband and I
are wondering if there are psychiatrist out there who counsel and
Mom in need
Your teen's prescribing psychiatrist should be able to refer you to
a therapist who works with teens. Some psychiatrists do prescribe
and provide therapy as well - in my experience they tend to be
psychoanalytically oriented and really want to do therapy and not
just do med. management.
Having said that, it is not necessary for the prescribing doc and
the therapist to be the same person. In fact, sometimes therapy
with a psychiatrist can be cost-prohibitive. However, it is
probably important that you find someone who is comfortable working
collaboratively with a prescribing psychiatrist (usually this means
checking in by phone from time to time).
I'm not sure what area you are in, but there are many excellent
child and adolescent therapists in the east bay, some of whom have
been recommended on this newsletter.
Yes, there are psychiatrists who also do therapy as well as
medication management. We found an excellent one, Dr. Petra
Steinbuchel, at Children's Hospital. Unfortunately, we could not
continue 50-minute weekly therapy sessions as the cost was
A better resource for us is the public UC Berkeley Psychology Clinic
(510-642-2055). Initial testing costs about $20. Weekly sessions are
on a sliding scale (we pay $70/week). Therapists are PhD grad
students under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, Dr. Laura
Mason. We are doing family therapy which really has decreased
conflict with our teen.
Have you looked into getting an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for
your son? My daughter has one and Special Ed status due to health
problems and ''emotional disturbance''(severe depression and anxiety
that interfered with her schoolwork).
Your son most likely is eligible for Special Ed status if his
depression is interfering with his schoolwork. It would entitle him
to many legal protections in the educational system. For example, my
daughter qualifies for free weekly therapy under AB3632, a state law
that provides psychotherapy for emotionally or physically disabled
kids to take full benefit of their educational opportunities.
Also consider Marchus School in Concord (925-602-6150). It's a public
school for kids with social or emotional difficulties in the regular
schools. My daughter has thrived there.
An excellent alternative high school is Envision Academy of Arts &
Technology in Oakland, a free charter school. It teaches kids via
projects which integrate math, language, etc.
If you'd like to learn about your son's legal educational rights,
contact an education advocate at the Disability Rights Education and
Defense Fund (DREDF) in Berkeley.
Finally, a supportive word for you. It can feel exhausting to have a
kid who's seriously depressed, so take good care of yourself. Your
son is lucky to have you as his mom.
In my experience (also have a depressed child), you have to call each
person and see what they offer. You can go to someone else for the
counseling part. I would make sure that they are well-informed about
the medications that your son is taking. I also found that the
psychiatrist will also do a little trouble-shooting during the very
short check-in appointment.
Hi, My daughter is 15 yrs old and has been on Effexor for about 8
months. She has been taking 75 mg and it made a huge difference. She
had been cutting herself and had thoughts of suicide. My two sisters
(ages 39 and 44 yrs) have suffered from depression since their teen
years and are both now on Effexor and actually recommended it for my
daughter. But now my daughter feels 75 mg is not enough and she feels
"self-destructive" so I called the psychiatrist and he is putting her
on 150 mg. Beyond the extreme behavior of cutting, it is hard for me
to distinguish "regular" teen issues and problems with depression. I
find myself going easy on her because I don't want to make the
depression worse or cause her to cut. But I also feel kids have so
much more today than we ever had and they are still struggling and
huge numbers have depression. What's going on???Also, does anyone have
real good information on Effexor, I asked the psychiatrist if it was
safe giving a 15 yr old 150 mg and he felt it was fine. But he's not
real talkative or supportive. I hope to find a new psychologist that
can prescribe meds and counsel.
my daughter is 15 and struggles with depression and anxiety. She's been suicidal
in the past. I believe she may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,
but I don't know for sure. Her biological father left me when I was 2 months
pregnant, came back around when she was 5 and proved to be the most
inconsistent person I know. At 13 my daughter asked him to leave her alone and
stop contacting her. Since then he shows up, whenever the spirit moves him.
This has been a real distressing part of my daughters need to grow on. Oh, she
was adopted by my husband when she was 7 or 8. Anyhow now we're being
blamed by this buffoon for "screwing up" our daughter. I see it more as a
biological problem first, my family has a strong history of depression, then
situational. She is currently being treated with anti-depressants and therapy.
She has times of great despair, but for the most part is progressing. One issue
that really concerns me is how many girls she knows have eating disorders and
actually find it kind of "cool" to starve themselves. My daughter is a very loving,
giving person and some of these girls glob onto her for support. We've worked
very hard at helping her understand that she doesn't have to fix other kids
problems, in fact these are for adults to deal with. We've encouraged her to talk
to the school counselor when this becomes demanding. It's been very hard to
watch my daughter struggle with her mood disorder. Any other info would be
great. a mom
I want to reply to the parents of the depressed teens. Last year at
age 15 my daughter was also very depressed, cut herself, and talked
of suicide. We got her psychotherapy that seemed to help. She was
against taking any medication. This year she is much more cheerful
but seems very susceptible to stress. Although her father is often
depressed, neither has been diagnosed as being really bi-polar. Our
problems sound less serious than yours, but there is definitely
something going on at age 15. Perhaps telling your daughters that
things may improve as they get older will help them. Best of luck to
Angry 13-year-old says he thinks of dying every day
Our 13 year old son is very beligerent these days. Last nite, our son
told us that he thinks about dying every day. As we tried to talk to
him about this he claimed that he has a religion/belief system that is
secret; that he has had it since he was born; that this belief system
is what keeps him from killing himself. We were horrified. He says
that we don't know who he is. When we ask him to tell us who he is,
he refuses. We are very alarmed and think this may be a sign that he
needs some help. We do not know where to go for help. He is a very
sensitive kid, who keeps repeating that he has alot of anger inside
and that he has had to bottle up his feelings all his life and can't
let his feelings out. Any suggestions. I am thinking that some sort
of teen group where he could see other kids talk about feelings might
[Editor notes: Many of the messages below were forwarded as they were
received since several parents felt it was urgent to do so. ]
Dear Scared Parents,
It sounds to me like your son needs some help fast. Some resources
If you have medical insurance see if it offers any mental health care.
Call and ask to speak to someone who works with teens.
Talk to your son's physician, he/she may be able to refer to a
psychologist or someone who could talk to your son. Or the physician
might be able to help you evaluate the situation.
If you are a UC Berkeley faculty or staff member CARE Services over at
the Tang Center might be able to help you evaluate the situation, and
help you find someone to help your son (this resource is only for UC
Berkeley folks though).
Another idea might be to call Berkeley Mental Health and see if they
can refer you to someone who is familiar with teens and their issues.
And you can always just check the previous postings from this parent's
list to get names of therapists etc. who are good with teens. There
are lots of people in this area who are experienced in this area, and
many of them have a sliding scale if cost is an issue.
It can frequently be very difficult to tell when a teen is "just being
a teen", and when they really need some help. From your posting, I
would encourage you to take your son's comments seriously, and have a
professional check things out. Getting some help could make all the
difference in your son's life.
Best of luck,
Good Grief! Your son is telling you that "he thinks of dying" and
that "he has a lot of anger inside" and that "he can't let his feelings
out" and you wonder if he needs help?!? He is begging you for help!
Start with your health insurance company. They should have a
mental health line for you to call. They will give you a list of appropriate
psycho-therapists to contact for an assessment. "Some sort of teen
group" may be of some help, but meanwhile let a professional
determine what he needs. Don't be afraid of overreacting, you should
consider yourselves lucky that your son is reaching out to you (in
his own teen-age way) so that you can get whatever help he needs
now. I hate to think of how many teen-age tragedies could have been
averted if parents, teachers, school staff, or friends had paid attention
to the clues and made the leap to do something. Please help him!
Seemingly??? If I were you, I would immediately turn off the computer and
try to get him an appointment with a therapist as soon as possible. Call
your pediatrician for a referral and/or look in the Parents of Teens
archives for referrals for therapists. He not only sounds extremely
troubled but he is putting out a HUGE call for help. A teen group would
NOT be the answer as the first step, because he needs to find a therapist
who could work with him individually on these feelings that he is
suppressing and who could try to understand the belief system he is
focusing around. This is critical. Good luck! His call for help
suggests that he might be open to a therapist willing to listen.
I am not a professional, but have worked in the field of mental health
for many years. It sounds like your son is definitely telling you
that he needs help. Whenever a child discusses killing himself it is a
clear sign that he is in danger of doing himself some sort of harm,
whether it's drugs, alcohol, trouble with the law, or the worst
possible scenario, a suicide attempt. The things he is telling you
demand urgent attention. I don't think a teen group is the right way
to start, as it sounds like he has been sublimating a lot of his anger
and depression, as has issues that go way back, which indicate he
needs to be evaluated professionally before any therapeutic modality
is instated. I urge you to get help right away. If you have health
care, I wouldn't hesitate one more day. If you don't, you might want
to try calling Berkeley Primary Care Access Clinic at 204-4666,
located at the old Herrick Hospital Site. If they don't have on-site
psychological services, they can probably give you a referral to
affordable care. Get some advice, and get your son in to be evaluated
as soon as possible. In the meantime, it sounds like he is vocalizing
some of his issues, albeit in a roundabout manner. Keep the channels
of communication open and continue to be open to his needs. He's at
least willing to talk to you to some degree, which is encouraging. --
Please sign me anonymous.
My son had similar problems. He is being treated for depression. My
advice is to be supportive of your son and find a good
therapist. Saying to your son "who are you?" or "we don't know who you
are anymore" probably just makes him feel worse. He sounds like he is
depressed and is struggling with a lot of issues. Remember everything
for teens is intensified especially if they are already very
sensitive. Kaiser has a teen group, but you have to be a kaiser
member. You also should know that if you see a therapist it is
possible that they may think your son should be hospitalized. This
happened to my son. In fact, they can hospitalize him with out your
consent if they think he is a danger to himself or others. This was a
shock to me and my son, but it turned out that my son was around other
teens with similar feelings and benefited from the experience. I hope
this helps if you want more info maybe you can get your email to me
thru the moderator. I need to keep this anon to protect my son. I can
ask my son if he would want to talk to your son. Through a chat or
something (my son just turned 15).
My oldest son is now 16, and we had similar talks with him when he
was 13/14 about death, dying, anger, killing himself, and my
husband got totally upset. We consulted a psychologist, and he
asked if there had been any actions, attempts, that just having
thoughts was not necessarily dangerous. We were told that many
boys have these thoughts, and the fact that our son expressed
them to us was a very good thing. That we should listen, and
not be judgmental, and not try to "fix" things, but to be there
for him. To spend time with him. TO talk with him and let him
figure out a solution. And the changes he finally made were
very modest. It was just the fact that my son felt that he had
choice. It was also very helpful having a professional give us
guidance. My son actually was only willing to talk to him
twice. I suggest reading the book, "Raising Cain, Protecting
the Emotional Life of Boys," by Kindlon and Thompson. What
you're seeing is how our society is incredibly sexist, and
trashes the emotions of boys, especially sensitive, intelligent
boys. And while our society denies it, I think most boys are
very sensitive and intelligent, which is where all the anger
comes from, the repeated snuffing of our boys' emotional
expression. And unfortunately, schools and the way schools are
set up, start this when boys are 5. Here's a referral to a
wonderful psychologist: Kirk Hewitt: 510-869-2545 Good luck.
You have to get some help right away. I think first you and your husband
should seek counseling to get an understanding of what may be going on
with your son and how to deal with it. This is because I think your son
is likely to resist talking to a therapist, and you need some knowledge
and strategies for the time when you are ready to talk to him about his
mental state and take some steps to help him. If money is an issue, talk
to your city or county Mental Health Services, or his school. Please
don't delay. It sounds to me as though your son is very much in need of
help. Good luck!
There are support groups for teens. I think that therapy only works if the
person going is ready and willing to hear what the (hopefully good matching)
therapist has to offer. I think when a teen can connect with other teens who
can relate to their feelings, there is much more chance of healing/growth. I
would suggest Al-anon or Al-ateen. Although, I don't know whether there is
alcoholism or drug use in your family. The feelings of anger that your son
describes sound familiar and are common for children from dysfunctional
families. Try not to take it personally, and think of your son's welfare.
You have every reason to be scared. Get your son to his pediatrician NOW for
a work up and a referral to a psychiatrist. A situation where a teen is
thinking about dying everyday and possibly delusional is way beyond the
point where group therapy alone can fix it. It sounds like he is severely
depressed. Depression is a disease--a life threatening one--and he needs
professional evaluation and treatment.Another possibility if you can't get
him in to his doctor right away, is to call Alameda Child Services
1-800-491-9099, they provide specialized evaluation and treatment of
troubled children. I know that watching someone in your family suffer with
this illness is frightening and heartbreaking, I've been there, its easy to
go into denial, but know this, you have to pull yourself together to take
action, at the stage it sounds like your son is at it isn't going to just
get better on its own, typically people just continue to spiral down. Don't
end up one of those parents who only realize how ill their child was after
their child commits suicide. I know that sounds horrible, I hate to write
it, but too many kids do it to take a chance.
If you need information and advice, I recommend the Family Alliance for the
Mentally Ill's Information and Referral line 510-835-0188. Good luck and God
bless. I will be thinking of you and your son.
To "Scared Parents": Please take your son's words seriously and get
him some help. A group doesn't seem appropriate at this point as his
suffering seems to be reaching a culmination. A therapist I would
whole heartedly recommend for great balance and wisdom and experience
with troubled young people is Betty Tharpe in Albany. Her number is
listed on Solano Avenue. Best to you. Anonymous
To Scared Parent:
I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who felt worried for you and
your son when I read your posting. There are many places to look for help
for your son, and I strongly encourage you to do so. I don't want to alarm
you, but he definitely seems to be in a great deal of pain and needs
individual attention, and not just a group. Where you look may depend on
your financial resources and your insurance coverage. You should probably
begin by alerting his physician. If you have Kaiser, or medical insurance
you should start there to have him evaluated by a psychiatrist. If neither
of those is a possibilty, I would call Berkeley Mental Health (if you live in
Berkeley). The East Bay California Association of Marriage and Family
Therapists has a web page and the California Chapter of the American
Psychological Association has a referral service, but you really need to
find someone who has experience seeing teenagers who feel suicidal, have
possible delusions and are in crisis. I would take this seriously, and act
quickly to help relieve the pain he is obviously in.
Children's Hospital offers some mental health services and the people they
employ are part-time and so also in private practice.. Dr. Brent Carter
who was there several years ago was good for my son. --Anon
My 14 year old son has been very depressed, and this
year his grades have gone from As to Fs. He said
proudly: "I've conquered school". He wants to return
to England (we left there four years ago) and is
I'm trying therapy for him.
I've also wondered about an Outward Bound program...
(he's expressed interest in white water rafting).
Has anyone any experience of their programs? And of
the sort of effect this might have? (June 2001)
Reply: see recommendations for Outward Bound
Regarding teens with depression:
I have heard very good things about Outward Bound, although I have no reports about
the effect on someone with depression. If it is something HE is interested in, it
could well be worthwhile.
Another thing is that I have seen a number of people (teens and adults) with
depression feel better and have more energy after receiving Reiki. The practitioner
places his or her hands on the head, chest, abdomen and back of the client (who is
clothed). The client, on some unconscious level, pulls in healing energy. The
healing energy is energy that surrounds us all the time. The practitioner is a
conduit for that energy, like copper is a conduit for electricity. The Reiki seems
to activate the person's own healing process and makes them open for whatever they
need next. It should not replace either psychotherapy or any from of medical care,
but can be used as an adjunct. Often, a wonderful synchronicity happens after a
series of Reiki sessions; the person finds just the right thing to help them. Reiki
is simple, non-invasive. I have been doing Reiki for 14 years and teaching it for 9
years. If you want, I'll be happy to send you some information, talk with you and
your children, and give appropriate referrals. Wishing you lots of luck in your
search for the best thing to help your children.
Depressed & Suicidal Daughter
I would love to hear from anyone who has had experience with teen ( girl)
depression, suicide moods. My daughter sees a therapist once every two
weeks because its all I can afford. We basically have a very positive
relationship , but there are other factors. I know it is important to take
all these indications very seriously, and I am, but I also wonder if there
is a " trend" or a style going around that encourages this kind of talk -- a
psychological equivalent of ghetto style. My daughter's moods shift.
Often she seems just fine. But I hesitate to leave her along for very long
at all these days - which makes it hard to have a life since I am a single
parent. Any feedback about this kind of a situation would be really
Any talk of suicide should be taken seriously. Cognitive therapy and/or
medication are 2 very successful treatments.
Take talk about suicide very seriously. It's good that your daughter
is talking to you about it. Sure lots of kids talk about death &
suicide & morbid subjects & Marilyn Manson, etc. but that is distinctly
different than suicidal ideation. The danger with depression and
suicidal ideation is that a depressed person of any age can accidently
kill themselves by taking permanent measures to solve a temporary
problem. Your daughter needs more therapy like 2 times a week at
least. If she cannot promise that she will keep herself safe, you
should immediately have her evaluated for hospitalization. There are
many resources for sliding scale therapy in the Bay Area.
Also, make certain she has the phone number of the Suicide Prevention &
Crisis Intervention Service for your county. Alameda County's is: 510
Parental Stress may also be of help to you at: 510 893-5444
Be calm & take this issue very seriously.
What does your daughter's therapist say about whether teens "try on"
depressive and suicidal attitudes? What does the therapist say about
medication for depression - and is the therapist an M.D. who can prescribe
it? What does your daughter's pediatrician say about teen depression and
I would definitely continue to take your daughter's talk and signals
seriously. As the mother of two "middle-aged" to "old" teenagers, I have
not heard anything at all to indicate that saying one is depressed or is
considering suicide is a fashionable attitude that kids "try on."
As one who has personally battled several serious episodes of depression
since young adulthood, here is what I have learned the hard way - I need
medicine, and I believe that is true of many, most, or even all clinically
depressed people. Modern anti-depressive medication has made me myself
again. (I have taken Effexor and Wellbutrin, not at the same time, of
course - both work well for me, with no side effects to speak of.)
I have had talk therapy too, and while it was a positive experience, I
don't believe now that it actually pulled me out of my first terrible
episode of depression, which went on for well over a year. I believe now
that what happened was that over time my body was able to heal the physical
illness that causes depressive episodes.
In the meantime, the talk therapy was the supportive care that kept me
alive while my body battled the disease - it kept me from suicide, so it
certainly worked to that extent! But even so my suffering during that time
was terrible, and it was again in subsequent episodes until I tried
medication. With medication, one doesn't have to suffer; one's life and
work don't have to fall apart.
I urge you to talk to your pediatrician and to the therapist about trying
medication. Your daughter might or might not feel that taking
anti-depressives will stigmatize her, or will be a scary confirmation that
she is really sick, but if she is clinically depressed, her life is at
As a wizened old survivor, I know that suicide is " a permanent solution to
a temporary problem." But not all young people understand that.
My heart goes out to you. Living with a child or teen who may be suicidal
is terribly hard. It wears on you day by day like water on rock --
occasionally a torrent, usually a steady flow, rarely ceasing altogether. I
assume your daughter's therapist has explained the hierarchy of increasingly
serious signs to watch for: such as suicidal ideation at the bottom, talk of
specific plans, attempts effective or not. If not, call a suicide
prevention center or the therapist and get filled in.
Take it very seriously. Better to overreact than live with regrets and
if-onlys. The sad truth is that you must face the reality that your child
may try to take her own life, and may succeed despite all you try to do.
It is better to face this than to avoid it. Once faced, you can go on with
the here and now.
Do you have friends to talk to? It is not something to hide or be ashamed
of, and talking to a sympathetic friend, relative, or minister can help give
you perspective and ease the burden you carry each day.
You didn't mention drug treatment (e.g. antidepressants). Consider it.
This is no time to be a drug-free purist.
Finally, love her. Simply love her.
The City of Berkeley's Mental Health Division provides excellent service to
families, teenagers and children who reside in Berkeley or Albany or attend
Berkeley or Albany schools who are experiencing moderate to severe
emotional, psychological, or relational problems. They are an excellent
resource: their staff are well trained and very carefully selected . Fees
are on a sliding scale based on income.
Their programs include outpatient clinical services and adolescent mental
health services at the Berkeley High School Health Center.
Family, Youth and Children's Services
1925 Derby Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 644-6617 Telephone
(510) 644-6021 Fax
(510) 644-6915 TDD
A long time ago (13 years or so), I went to the Women's Therapy Center.
They have a sliding scale (at the time, it went down to $8/session. Last I
heard, they had raised it to a minimum of $15/session, but that was at
least 7 years ago; it may be higher now). I don't know if they deal with
Teens. I found them to be just what I needed. They have student interns
who are supervised by experienced therapists (my early appointments were
sometimes recorded, so my counselor could talk with her supervisor about
it). I chose to stay with my therapist after she entered private practice
(though at that time she raised her rates, of course), and ended up working
with her for 7 years. My husband also worked through the Men's Therapy
Center at one point, and was satisfied with them. I think the key is to
request another therapist if you don't click with the first one or two.
Probably you can get info about the WTC or MTC from the phone book.
These are some thoughts concerning teenage girls, depression, and suicidal
I've been thinking lately about the role of PMS in my life over the last 37
years. I think menstruation and PMS need to be talked about more openly and
seriously rather than being joked about as they so often are. They need to
be brought out of the closet as has been menopause. Over the years I have
been severely depressed, suicidal (even attempting to take my own life at
one point), and full of rage. But it's only been lately that I've seen VERY
CLEARLY the connection between my moods and my monthly cycle. The majority
of my cycles begin with about 5 days of extreme sadness with lots of
weeping, rage at everyone and everything, feelings of despair and
hopelessness, and seemingly uncontrollable lashing out at people around me,
not to mention the physical symptoms - headaches, backaches, and cramps.
The emotional symptoms are more intense for me than the physical. This 12
times per year for the last 37 years - since I was 11. I wish that I had
had someone to tell me from the beginning that this was hormonal, that I
was not crazy, that this is not who I am , that it will pass, that I could
get relief from it. But menstruation was not talked about in my family - it
was a private thing. I learned about it from a film shown during girl
scouts. It's only been fairly recently that I've learned to "hide" for a
few days, to talk sense to myself, and to put my family on "PMS alert".
I realize that there are other causes for depression, that there is
depression that lasts for long periods of time, that boys and men get
depressed. But it seems to me that if you feel your emotions and body are
beyond your control and you don't have a clear understanding of why it's
happening, that can contribute to feelings of being crazy, that something
is seriously "wrong with me", leading to issues of self-esteem and more
generalized depression? I don't know, I'm no doctor, but this seems to have
applied in my case.
Not having a teenage daughter (I have a teenage son), but having been one
and having known many, I know that the combination of bad PMS and the
typical life issues that teenage girls deal with can be incredibly intense.
Girls need to be observed closely to see if there's a connection between
their monthly cycles and their behavior, and then helped through these times
by supportive adults. Let them know that they're not crazy, that this is
not who they are, that this will pass, that they can weep on your
shoulder, that they are still loveable. Get them medical help if
Re: teen depression
I would also take suicidal ideation very seriously. My sister has
been depressed since she was a teenager (though she hid it well by
being the family clown). The depression as gotten worse and worse
over the years, and recently (at age 55) she attempted suicide.
A few more thoughts on this. Please think back over your child's life
to see whether he/she has had any kind of illness with very high
fever, including but not limited to meningitis, encephalitis, measles
or whether he/she has had any kind of injury to the head. With either
of these situations, the child might have sustained some brain injury.
People with brain injury CAN have depression as a side effect. The
treatment for this kind of depression is quite different from other
forms of depression. Please be aware that many doctors and even many
neuropsychologists are unaware of the possible connection between
childhood brain injury (from disease or injury) and adult depression.
However, you can contact Cai Johnson and Children's Hospital. She is
a pediatric neuropsychologist and knows of this possible connection.
Testing is required to determine whether a particular person's
depression is connected with childhood brain injury (of course, I
would assume there has to be a history of such injury before anyone
would do such testing).
Also, Sat. Aug 12, there is a special training for parents of teens
from 10 am to 12 noon, through PLI (Parents Leadership Institute).
The price is quite reasonable. PLI made the difference between day
and night in my relationship with my daughter.
There is another amazing resource, especially if your teen is 18 or
older. It called Recovery Inc. and is a self-help group, somewhat
like 12-Step programs, only more structured and more practical (in my
PERSONAL opinion). It is meant specifically help people deal with
every day life, especially people with depression, anxiety, etc. It
is common sense put into a method. The person who referred me to it
commented, "And there's nothing so uncommon as common sense." If your
teen is under the age of 18, someone else can go to the meetings (no
charge! you can give a donation at the end of the meeting IF you want
and can), and then work with the teen. There is a book used in
Recovery entitled Mental Health Through Will Training. That is the
book used n the meetings, and it is useful to read the book at home.
Unhappy & Frustrated 16-year-old
We have a depressed 16 year old Berkeley High sophomore. After the
first semester of school went poorly we had him tested by a learning
disability specialist who diagnosed him ADD. Unfortunately we feel he
has given up on himself and has fallen into a serious depression, he
has narrowed his group of friends to a few who have all dropped out of
high school, and he is ignoring his school work. In spite of all
this, he gets up every day and goes to school without complaint, and
he doesn't skip classes despite his self professed extreme boredom.
He seems to be uninterested in seeking therapy (as he is uninterested
in everything else), he is not receptive to treatment with drugs (he
tried ritalin for 2 days before giving it up), and we don't know where
to turn. We promised him next school year will not be the frustrating
experience this year was but we are uncertain how to keep that
promise, especially since he is not doing anything to help. The whole
family suffers when one member is so unhappy. There has to be some
way to convince a 16 year old that success in school will ensure a
better future. We would like to hear from anyone who has been through
this, or just wants to give advice, recommend a school, a therapist
etc... - we need help. Gateway school in SF sounded like it might be
the solution, but it their admissions person made it reasonably clear
that they are looking for students who are already academic achievers,
not children with potential who need help overcoming learning
problems. (May 2001)
Try the Seascout program in the Berkeley Marina. This is a great program
that has room for all jkinds of kids if they can pull a rope and handle a
(recommendations for Sea Scouts)
I would advise you to find a counselor for your son, and look into private
highschools for next year. The cost is high, but the cost of inaction is
higher. Even though the regular application and enrollment process is
officially over, openings do sometimes come up.
We faced a similar situation with our daughter when she was in seventh grade
at King. Things slid from bad to worse, and were not helped when she wanted
to handle various situations on her own, without parental support, or
interference, and soon began to lie to try to patch her realities together,
and cover her mistakes. (No one suggested that she was ADD, however.)
She skipped 3 years in math, and then failed. We had death threats from
other students on the answering machine. Mostly, she was depressed, scared
and uninterested in anything in her life.
Our public schools have a lot to offer for those who can navigate their way
through them. Our daughter could not.
Happily, after a year in a liberal, artsy private school, and supportive
counseling, we have our daughter back. She writes, takes photos, sews,
climbs, has constructive friendships, and talks with us about what's on her
mind. She's increasingly involved in her academic subjects, and is
beginning to define what she wants academically. Math is back on track.
Sometimes it's stormy, but she is engaged in life, trying her wings, and
learning to fly.
My son had a similiar reaction to Berkeley High -- if you go there
and visit, you'll see why. For some students, it is not a very
supportive environment. Plus they are going through tremendous
changes in their bodies and it will only get worse. I suggest :1)
moving 2) Beacon School or some other school that is more
supportive-- how about Orinda/Moraga/Layfette/Concord/Walnut Creek --
somewhere on a BART line (if you can't afford a private school) 3)
have him take the GED/Chespeake (or whatever it's called and graduate
early). Don't send him back to Berkeley High!!!
In addition to dealing with the larger, long-term problems, there are some short-term things
that I read about, and that helped me when I myself was depressed:
1) Keep major changes like moving, changing schools, and so forth, to a minimum, where
possible - even if the changes are positive. Large changes are inherently stressful.
2) Gently and unobtrusively provide opportunities for him to do all the little things that he
enjoys - playing cards, listening to music, going camping, reminiscing, telling jokes, dancing,
painting, seeing old friends - whatever. Once begun, depression and enjoyment tend to
perpetuate themselves as habits. Do what you can to re-establish the enjoyment habit.
You mention that although your son doesn't want to see a therapist, he
goes to class and accepts school routines. Perhaps seeing a therapist
can be another one of those non-optional things that kids have to do. It
sounds like he desperately needs the help and is not in a state of mind
to make that decision himself. Good luck!
Questions about Medications
Our teenager was taking a low dose of an antidepressant and it seemed to be
helping a lot with getting along with others and being much more pleasant to
be around and over all just a huge improvement. Now she won't take it
anymore and says it ''harms her creativity, etc.'' I think she read this
kind of thing online, because she reads stuff and then talks as if she knows
it to be true. Anyway, has anyone had any experience with this and how
might we talk her into taking it (celexa) again.
How about sitting down with her and doing the research together?
There are certainly sites listing both benefits and side effects of
medications. Maybe there are some benefits that will appeal to her,
as well as some side effects you want to be aware of, such as a
higher risk of suicide:
It's also worth taking a look at a book by Irving Kirsch called The
Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. He has
some interesting points, including: If you test antidepressant
effectiveness using a control group with an ''active'' placebo (a
placebo that produces a side effect, such as a dry mouth), clinical
trials show that antidepressants and placebos are equally effective.
But to get a drug approved for a particular use, the company needs to
provide the FDA with 2 controlled studies showing its effectiveness.
There can be a hundred studies that show the drugs are not effective,
but these don't get ''counted'' as long as there are 2 that do show
effectiveness. If you toss out enough studies, you can ''show''
Also many medications prescribed for kids (including celexa) are not
FDA approved for kids. They have not been tested on kids and that
use is off-label.
Take some time - it's worth being as informed as possible
a careful mom
I have been very resistant to the idea of starting my 16 year old on
antidepressants but am thinking he might benefit from them. Anyone
who has experience with this issue (positive or negative), I'd love to
get your input.
Both my teenagers (17 year old boy and 14 year old girl) are on
antidepressants.Although they were each engaged in therapy for some
time before trying medication, in each case the meds have improved
their depression in a way that did not occur before trying medication.
My son suffered from a mild chronic depression for some years,
affecting his self-esteem, although he has always done well in school
and had a nice circle of friends. He says now that, before meds, he
constantly worried about what others were thinking of him, which
caused him to feel ill at ease and inhibited in social settings. Now
he is relaxed and confident, and says he no longer ruminates about
everything. The first medication tried worked well for him. His
psychiatrist is Dr. Peter Freedman, his therapist Laurie Case, both in
Berkeley, and I would recommend both of them.
My daughter has suffered from a more severe depression the past few
years, triggered by taking Singulair for her asthma (now under
investigation by the FDA for causing suicidal ideation and depression,
particularly in children and teenagers) and bullying at school
(probably her depression caused her to become a target).Her
psychopharmacologist is Dr. Lisa Hardy in Danville; her therapist is
JJ Kelly at the Berkeley Therapy Institute. She is now on her second
anti-depressant, and has responded fairly well, but still gets
depressed, anxious, and has suicidal thoughts at times and
occasionally cuts herself. Socially, she now has many close friends
and is adept at navigating tricky social situations with a maturity
beyond her years.
It has been very difficult, to say the least, and I expect that she
may be trying a new anti-depressant in the near future. Of course, we
worry about side effects, and whether our children will continue to
struggle with depression all their lives.
For both kids, medication has clearly been beneficial. I believe
that they both suffer from an inherited chemical imbalance, shared by
family members/ancestors on both sides of the family, and their father
and I felt this ultimately needed to be corrected with medication.
They both responded quite quickly, once a theraputic dose was given.
Talk therapy has also been an important part of treatment for both.
Good luck. It's hard to see your beloved children struggle with
this disease, I know.
Your daughters situation sounds very much like what we have been
experiencing for the last 9 months. In July of '09 my daughter had
what we thought was a depressive episode triggered by the drug
Accutane. After months of psychotherapy and meds (she was going to
one of the docs in Dr. Hardy's office)which were not working, I took
her to another psychiatrist who diagnosed her with soft symptom
bipolar, a very rare side effect of Accutane. My daughter is
currently on 3 meds and she is doing really well and in the very near
future her doc will take her off two of the drugs and she will only be
on one, which is an antidepressant/mood stabilizer.
Our son claims that he's depressed. He's a well adjusted
kid, popular in his 8th grade class, decent grades, but
has been struggling recently juggling his school work and
all the usual teenage battles. My husband works all the
time and I'm a stay at home mom. Recently, there's been
some stress in the family, older daughter going away to
college, a near-death in the extended family. My husband
and I are constantly arguing and I admit, it's an
unhealthy environment for our children. It seems to be
especially taking a toll on our 14 year old son. I tried
taking him to therapist but he refuses to go (encouraged
by my husband's ridicule of therapy). His older sister
recently told me that our 14 year old admitted to her that
he felt depressed and was interested in getting Anti-
depressants but didn't want to come to ''mom and dad''. How
do I approach him about this? Maybe b/c my husband tends
to not take mental health seriously and our son feels that
he wouldn't be taken seriously if he came to us. I'm fine
with him going on Anti-depressants for a year or 2 but my
main concern is that if he is seriously depressed,
couldn't he use the Anti-depressants to attempt suicide?
Right now he's nowhere near that state but my fear would
be that providing him with Anti-depressants could be
loading him with a responsibility that he may not be ready
for. How have other parents dealt with this? Also, if he
refuses to go to therpay, can a doctor prescribe the Anti-
depressants? Also, is it too large a responsbility for a
14 year old to take his Anti-depressants on his own (once
daily) and be trusted to not abuse them?
I appreciate any and all advice!
I wasn't sure whether to reply to the anti-depressant
question or the one that followed re the bright child not
doing well in school since I've dealt with both! Including
the arguing at home which contributes to a kid's stress. My
daughter, a very smart and responsible kid, had depression,
dizziness and migraines in 8th grade and was home most of
the year. It also became clear in middle school, as work
became more intense, that she wasn't doing her homework at
all. In brief, we had her tested and found ADD, which can be
hard to find in girls who aren't ''hyper.'' She didn't want to
go to a psychiatrist but we talked her into it to get meds,
and then told her she had to go every few weeks to keep the
meds in check. She started Wellbutrin and Topomax. She
didn't like ADD meds. And is now at MacGregor High, the
alternative school in Albany, where she is doing her work
and more, and says she ''loves'' because it's more
independent, positive, interesting, and small. She sees her
old friends after school and made new ones at Mac High.
Check out the alternative schools in whatever town you're
in. My daughter opted to go off of Wellbutrin on her own,
and generally is doing so much better. Removing the homework
struggle has changed our lives. It has been totally
consuming to work this out, but worth the effort.
I would suggest that your son go to therapy and try to work things out that
way first. I think a good therapist will be able to diagnose his condition. He
may be feeling upset and doesn't want to deal with the ''talk'' therapy and
that's why he's asking for the meds. They are not to be taken easily. They are
very powerful drugs. It's not like taking an aspirin to make the pain go away.
There are side effects. If the issues you mention that are going on in your
house, I would say they might be having an effect on him. Why don't you go
with him for family therapy? If the father doesn't want to participate that's
fine, you can still make progress. That may be an issue that your son needs
to learn how to deal with and a good therapist might be able to help.
My daughter was suicidal and we started her on anti-depressants and it really
helped her. She's been very responsibly taking them since she was 14. She is
monitored by a psychiatrist. I don't think she would abuse them, but that's
It sounds like your son needs some help. Start with therapy, just tell him that
he needs to try this first even if his dad is being a jerk about it. My
father wasn't so on-board at first until it became apparent that she was really
Dear Mother of 14-year old,
it sounds like your family is going through a lot of stress.
I, too, have a husband who works a lot and I am a stay at
home mom... I would urge you to wait a bit with the
anti-depressants. Summer is here. So your son will
experience less stress. Give him and yourself a couple of
months to adjust to the changes (daughter leaving for
college, near death in family). I think things will calm
down and your son will feel better. Perhaps you and him can
go off on a vacation together??? Take a friend of his and
enjoy your time away...
Hope this helps.
Barbara, SAM of 3
It sounds like your son is temporarily unhappy for good
reasons: the hormones of adolescence, a stressful home
life, and other life challenges. Seems rational to me. A
doctor is unlikely to prescribe anti-depressants before
the patient's life is adversely affected by clinical
symptoms: academic failure, lost appetite, poor hygiene,
increased social isolation, acting out, suicidal thoughts,
etc. (FYI, every teen can find websites on methods of self-
destruction using only common household implements and OTC
In my personal experience, unlike the amphetamines or
barbituates of several generations ago, the
antidepressants in current use have little or no effect
unless they happen to address someone's particular
chemical imbalance. They thus are less susceptible to
abuse, but it may take longer to find the right one. A
small percentage of people, in particular teens,
reportedly become suicidal on Prozac, usually in the first
few weeks of taking it. But there are several classes of
anti-depressants. They can be useful medicine.
I sympathize with your concern, and would encourage you to
keep up a supportive emotional connection with your son.
In particular, watch for signs that he is smoking or
drinking to cope with depression (a very bad longterm
strategy). A healthy diet and regular exercise can also
make a huge positive difference.
I would say definitely talk to your son if he is saying he's
depressed. I would ask him if he'd like to talk to someone
(therapist, counselor). Sometimes just knowing that our
parents are listening to us and supportive makes all the
difference. He may not even need anti-depressants, and even
if they are recommended you can always get a second opinion.
Therapy for him and for members of the family, if their
willing, can make a difference. First step is to communicate
with your son and take him seriously.
Mother of a depressed son
We need advice on what to do with our 15 year old son, we
are so spent. He does suffer from depression, probably
anxiety and bipolar. he refuses to see a therapist or take
any medication. He did take medication for a while and was
very angry about it He was very drugged looking and
obviously needed it to be adjusted or changed but won't go
to appointments or the appointments were scheduled far
apart(kaiser)and all in all the whole therapy/medication
turned him against any help whatsoever. The therapist that I
did like asked my son if he wanted to be there and of course
my son said ''NO''. The therapists response was he didn't like
to see anyone who did not want to be there. Seems reasonable
but what are we suppose to do with our son. He is not
threatening suicide or harm to anyone else but he is losing
out on life and it is so painful to watch. He is not
interested in school(failing) or friends only his computer.
What have other parents done with their teens? How do we get
through to him??? Any miracle worker therapists out there?
a heartbroken parent
p.s. we do not have the $$$ to send him off on a wilderness
Our son is the same age and going through the same thing. After seeing
many therapists, psychiatrists, and even two neurologists, the person
who helped us is Dr. Ron Cohen in Los Altos. I realize that's a long
drive for you but maybe your son could be coaxed to see him just once?
If not, I think YOU might go to see him. He helps me keep a slightly
tighter grip on my sanity. The other thing we're doing is an IEP
through the school so we can qualify for mental health services. Given
our current whacked government (all $$ to Iraq and none to mental
health agencies) it's tough to find help but if you are persistent you
can talk to people who give good advice on what you can DO. I'm
slowly realizing my kid won't be a normal high school student but we
can adjust, get him through this, and hope that his brain works on a
more even keel in a year or two. I understand how truly awful it is to
worry about your son 24/7. It affects your health and your entire
By way of background, we have 2 children who have struggled
with similar issues from childhood through their teenage
First, my initial reaction on reading your post was that if
there's a problem getting your son into individual therapy,
try engaging him in family therapy first. A family
therapist may have more influence than you do directly.
Sending your son to a therapist you and your husband see
alone isn't what I have in mind.
Second, therapy alone is unlikely to be enough; medication
treatment is, in my view, essential. They are rarely a
panacea, but they usually help significantly.
Meds compliance: You're absolutely right that the wrong
meds will discourage compliance, and that frequent visits
are important until an effective medication regime is
identified. Waiting on Kaiser to schedule follow-ups is a
recipe for failure, as you've learned.
Finally: your son is a minor and you are in charge. I know
that being in charge doesn't make it easy to deal with him.
But you can make him engage in treatment. That is a
challenge, but can probably be overcome with persistent
firmness. If it takes serious negative consequences, so be
it. Do it while you still can. Once your son sees some
benefit he will almost certainly become more cooperative,
even though it is a pain in the butt. So are daily insulin
I've heard good and bad things about the Kaiser system; from
unrelated (non-psych) experiences I know that there are some
very good doctors there, but that it can take aggressive
advocacy and persistence to get what you want/need. If you
can afford it, I would recommend paying for some outside
consultation with a well-regarded psychiatrist so you at
least have some foundation in dealing with the Kaiser
system. But regardless of that, get your son treated and be
Good luck. Dealing with these issues is like being caught
in the mill of the gods. It wears a family down. But hang
in there. Things can and will get better once your son is
A fellow parent...
I've read a few posts lately about teens with depression
and being 'bipolar.' If you haven't already, please be
very cautious about accepting a diagnosis of bipolar. It
has been extremely over diagnosed the past few years. I
know...our daughter was diagnosed incorrectly and
ultimately, was on multiple medications that she did not
need to be on. As a parent with a child who has indeed
struggled with depression and extreme mood swings the past
few years, I know how desperate one can become to have a
psychiatrist find a diagnosis. I've been there.
After her psychiatrist labeled her ADD last spring after
meeting with her for 15 minutes and handed us yet another
script, we knew we had to run, not walk, and get another
opinion. The professionals at Langley Porter evaluated
our daughter and long story, short, she is a new person and
we have hope. She went from 6 medications down to one (and
will eventually be off that med too) and began a program
called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT for short). It
has been no less than a miracle. She has learned coping
skills and is now looking forward to going off to college
in a couple years.
Please, please, please question any psychiatrist who labels
your child bipolar. Unfortunately, children who are
depressed or have other mental/nervous issues can't get an
MRI and have a clear diagnosis, so as parents, we must
continue to question and not accept all diagnoses without a
Been down that road
I also have a teen who suffers with severe depression. We
did not give her a choice to do psychotherapy and take
psychotropic medication. She has never wanted to take the
medication but I have treated it like any other medical
problem, I wouldn't give her a choice about antibiotics.
Ditto with therapy, she initially was relieved we were
sending her, then she became resistant (told her to talk to
the therapist) and now she loves her therapist. Medication
is a key component of her recovery but it can be tricky
finding the right one for your child. Consistent aerobic
exercise is also a known antidepressant if this is possible.
Kaiser often can't provide the ongoing therapy these kids
need. For boys my recommendations: Joe Saah, MFT The Men's
Center Berkeley, John Sprinson, Ph.D. Oakland, and David
Selniker, Ph.D. also in Oakland.
Hang in there.
We are thinking of agreeing to give our son medication for
his anxiety. A behavioral pediatrician recommended it
because his anxiety is effecting his peer relations and
our home life quite a bit. Does any one have experience
with the SSRIs or other anxiety meds? What are/were the
side effects and what are the benefits?
We too were concerned about trying an SSRI with our 13 year
old son a few years ago for anxiety and obsessive
compulsive behavior, and I can well appreciate the
difficulty of your decision given the severe warnings with
adolescents. Our son was afraid of airplane travel and
even trying new restaurants. Every night, he spent about
20 minutes compulsively tidying up his room before bed. It
began to impact our family life. We tried patient
reasoning. We tried bribery. All to no avail. Finally,
our developmental pediatrician started him on a very low
dose of fluoxetine (generic Prozac), and the change has
been wonderful. I'm happy to report that his room is now
an age appropriate mess at night. It's no longer a
struggle to travel abroad, and my son tries all sorts of
strange food here and abroad. We've noticed no adverse
reactions, but our behavioral pediatrician sees our son
every few months to keep an eye on him, and we try to do
the same. So, our experience has been very positive, but
we remain watchful. I'd recommend doing some research on
the internet, and I wish you the best with this difficult
another concerned parent
I believe that we need to attack my daughter's depression from all angles,
including dietary and nutritional aspects. We go to talk therapy, on and off
together and seperatly. The family (art) therapy is very good. Have you tried
therapy as a family? Has your son gone on his own? My daughter is taking an
SSRI medication (Celexa-not sure if this is also an anti-anxiety med). It's been
1 year now and has really helped her depression. She has had no side effects.
She had to work up to a dosage where she actually felt a difference, which
took about two months. Other people tend to notice the difference sooner
than that person taking the drugs. We have gone through a psychiatrist who
specifically treats adolescents, not the pediatrician, who didn't feel
comfortable prescribing the meds. I was given a short list of side effects by
the Dr. He didn't want to scare me with the long list, but I got them through
the pharmacist, anyway. It's good to know what to be aware of when starting
on these really powerful meds. Remember there are no studies done on
young people with developing brains with these drugs. If you are sure you
want to try these, make sure your son knows what the side effects are also
and to even keep a journal of how he's feeling so you can communicate about
it. That's really important. Good luck and do your research.
This is a really weird site, but also has some interesting info if you can take
what you need and leave the rest. It's postings by people on perscription
medications. http://www.crazyboards.org. You don't have to join or say
anything, just read. There are others, I couldn't remember the addresses, but
there must be some tamer ones out there
reluctant to go on the meds
Psychotropic medications (including stimulants,
antidepressants, SSRIs, etc.) all have side-effects and
they should be used only with a firm and accurate
diagnosis. For example, some of these drugs can actually
precipitate a psychosis and make the situation much worse.
If you are considering medication, have an evaluation by a
psychiatrist (M. D.), a specialist in the use of
medications. A ''behavioral pediatrician'' is not a
traditional specialty in my understanding.
The one thing I didn't know that I should have known in medicating my
very anxious child was that, if there is a history of bipolar disorder
on either side of the family, you run the risk of activating it if you
administer SSRIs for the anxiety.
We did and we did. Zoloft worked great for three months and then mania
set in, and we've been on a roller coaster since. Knowing what I know
now, I don't know what I would do. He's now taking Xanax for the
anxiety, because even on mood stabilizers, he can't tolerate SSRIs.
Some kids with history of bipolar in the family can take SSRIs with or
without mood stabilizers.
Just another ''little'' worry to worry about.
I am responding as a parent who was an extremely anxious child,
teenager, and young adult. It was not until my mid-twenties that, after
an episode of severe, crippling anxiety & depression, I was diagnosed
with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and tried an SSRI (Paxil). The change
was, for me, nothing short of miraculous. I simply did not know that I
could live without grinding worry and periods of intense anxiety.
My experience with medications has not been perfect. There are
troublesome side effects (namely weight gain and lack of libido).
I still have breakthrough anxiety episodes where I will need to use
benzodiazapenes for a couple of weeks. But I have tried to goo off the
meds many, many times, only to have the grinding worry return, so I have
accepted that I need to stay on an SSRI, likely for life.
There are many troublesome issues related to young people and
psychotropic medications. SSRIs seem to sometimes affect adolescents
differently than adults. And it can be difficult to differentiate
''normal'' teenage turmoil from something that might be a disorder
calling for treatment.
I do know that seeing how medication has improved my life, I wish very
much that my mom or my psychotherapist had suggested a trial of
medication when I was younger. My anxiety led me to engage in some
risky, self-destructive behaviors (early sexual activity, binge
drinking, self-medicating with pot). And many of my memories of
childhood are of carrying around fears and feeling that the world was a
threatening place. But SSRIs didn't exist then, so talk therapy was
about all I was given, but it simply wasn't enough.
(I am assuming you will speak with your child about what she wants to
do....) A Worrier
There is no way to tell which SSRI's will help a particular child, to my
knowledge. What helps one child may not help another. One child may have
side effects and another may not.
Unfortunately you just have to try one or some and see.
My 11 year old son has been on a generic brand of Prozac for a year for
an anxiety disorder called Selective Mutism.
It has helped him tremendously and he has had NO side effects.
Another boy I know with the same issue was put on another SSRI and it
helped him, where Prozac did not.
What I do know is that Prozac is the longest used SSRI on children and
SO FAR studies do not show any long term ill effects. I believe the
others are too new to have any solid evidence from studies. Hope this is
helpful. Good luck anon
When I was 15 I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder by a
therapist and medicated for it. I think I took Zyprexa at that time.
While we were concerned about my being so young to be on that type of
drug (it's classified as an antipsychotic, sounds bad I know), the
anxiety and depression were certainly worse. I'd ask yourself and your
daughter how disruptive and unconfortable the anxiety problem is (I know
it can be quite
debilitating) and if medication would relieve it, go for it!
If you think it can be managed through various therapies, maybe try that
route first. As an adult now, I have my anxiety and depression problems
under control and I'm glad my parents made the decision to medicate me.
It was too unmanageable for me without it. Good luck to you and I wish
you all the best Been there
We have had our son on Celexa for depression and Concerta and Stratera
for his ADD for 4 or 5 years. He tolerates all these medications very
well with no side effects, and his life is a lot easier (although there
is much he still needs help with). A symptom of depression in kids can
be anger or anxiety. However, SSRIs are NOT anti-anxiety agents (like
ativan, klonopin or
valium) which have the unfortunate problem of developing tolerance. I
suggest a good MD to help you through these complicated issues. We
really like Dr. Josephine Lindt in Albany
at(510) 525-2670. she's a Developmental Pediatrician.
Antidepressants for Teens?
Related page: Antidepressants
Has anyone had experience with antidepressants being prescribed for
teen agers? My daughter's therapist has brought this up as a
possibility. I can see lots of potential problems with this. Perhaps
also some benefits. But I have no knowledge or experience. I would
welcome feedback from people who have had experience with this.
Our family has just learned that our bright, active 15-year-old
daughter is very depressed and talking of suicide. She is now
receiving counseling and has been prescribed Prozac, but she doesn't
want to take it. I'm looking for advice from other parents whose
teens are on anti-depressants. Did it really help? Did it make her
feel weird? Any strange side effects? How long before it started
helping? Does your child have any advice for a teen who's been
prescribed anti-depressants? Or do you have some advice for me?
My daughter became very depressed with suicidal ideations when she was
13. Since we have a great deal of familial depression in our family I
took it very seriously. Long story short, she went to Lisa Hardy, MD, at
Children's in Oakland about whom I can't speak highly enough. My
daughter was put on Zoloft, which helped tremendously. After about 6-8
months she felt well enough to come off the Zoloft and has been doing
well ever since - that was about a year ago. She had been to therapists
but the reality was, she was pretty clear what her life issues were -
and they were enough to make anyone depressed - and was dealing with
them. She still is but now she's far more able to given that she has the
psychic energy to do so.
my 15 year old son was very depressed last school year. he wasn't talking
about suicide but he basically stopped doing any homework so he went from
being an "a" student to an "f" student. he wouldn't go to therapy or take
medication. he finally bottomed out (one of those moments when you both
recognize that it's either therapy or something dangerous could happen) in
november, 99. he went to therapy willingly but continued refusing
medication. finally in may, 2000, with a bribe from me, he agreed to "try"
medication. unfortunately, the first med we tried "effexor" didn't seem to
help. we were moving in july and he was going to summer school and it was
all more than he could handle. i don't need to tell you the whole story but
what i do want to tell you is that he's now a freshman, he's on wellbutrin,
also taking adderall (for adhd) and finished his first semester with a's and
b's. he is SOOO much better. last year i'd find him lying on the couch
motionless, unable to move because he couldn't deal with all the homework he
had. that doesn't happen anymore. i'm sure he would agree that medication
has helped him greatly. don't know if he'd be willing to talk to your
daughter (maybe), but i'm happy to talk to you. feel free to email me and
let me know if you'd like to talk on the phone or in person. best of luck
In the Jan. 30 teen newsletter you asked about your depressed daughter not
wanting to take prozac. My son, now 15, had these problems at 12 while in
middle school. We started him in counseling and prozac was
prescribed. He started taking it and it made a world of difference. It
took about three weeks to actually take effect. At the end of those three
weeks, he felt better, and we all felt better. He took prozac until this
past summer, and decided he didn't need it any more. We consulted with his
therapist and the psychiatrist who prescribed the prozac. All felt that if
he was ready to get off, he could make that decision. He stopped taking it
and has been fine. He took it for about 2 1/2 years. We did not notice,
nor did he feel side effects. He stopped gradually, decreasing dosage until
he stopped. There has been no withdrawal problems. He does continue with
his therapist, and feels that he still needs that outlet.
I know your fear and feelings of helplessness to see your child depressed
and talking of suicide. It was so hard to see my 12 year old in that place.
If you want, I can ask him if he has any advice to give your daughter and
get back to you. My advice to you is just keep giving her lots of love and
support, and keep talking with her. Even if you don't think she is
listening, she is hearing you deep inside, and it does make a difference.
If your daughter would be willing to take the Prozac for a month, she
would be in a much better place to decide whether to continue. I'm a
parent (different, of course) but, did not realize I was depressed
until I began taking Prozac and felt better. No important side
effects, no big deal, but a big difference.
My suggestion is to be as sympathetic as possible with
your daughter- acknowledge her feeling unhappy.
Explain that sometimes depression is a chemical
imbalance or being depressed creates a chemical
imbalance - encourage her to try the antidepressant
for a few weeks. Ask her if she feels any negative
side effects. Some antidepressants are more suitable
for one person than another - check with your dr. if
there are unwanted side effects or it's not working -
it takes time to get the right medicine and dosage
worked out. Hand the medication to her each day and
watch her take it. Look up side effects on the web -
especiialy chat or message boards - some side effects
are just temporary. Anti depressants really do work!
Ask your daughter's therapist what you and the rest of
the family can say or do to help. Keep life at home as
cozy and as regular as possible. Be as close to your
daughter and spend as much time with her as she will
allow - even if you have to change your schedule. Let
her know she is not alone.
I have just been dealing with a similar situation.
Best of luck and hang in there!
Responding to the family with the daughter suffering from depression:
Assuming you and she trust the diagnosis, take the medication.
Our 16-year old son has been taking a similar drug for two months. He hasn't
noticed any side affects, and for a while was wondering if it was having any
effect. However, over the past month both he and his parents have noticed a
definite improvement, and it's improved his ability to function socially.
He's still having a great deal of difficulty concentrating and memorizing, as
apparently it can take several months for the medication to affect learning
areas. He manages his own medication in consultation with his doctor.
Naturally he's pretty sensitive on the subject and had difficulty discussing
it with us, let alone other people or agencies such as the school.
I'd advise you to take the diagnosis seriously, as depression can severely
affect judgement and concentration, as well as inhibiting consideration of
long-range plans or consequences. It's apparently fairly common in
adolescents, especially in girls. If not treated it could get worse and she
could wind up with significant problems. Treatment is usually accompanied by
psychotherapy, though I assume that's how you got the original diagnosis. If
you want more information a quick web search on 'Prozac', 'Zorloft' or
'Depression' will provide a wealth of information.
Just a question and response to the parents of the depressed daughter. Did
your health care provider check whether she was taking any other drugs?
There is an acne medication which is being linked to suicide proneness in
teens. Apparently the manufacturer hasn't put that info on its inserts yet
and there was a recent stink about it in the DC area .
Secondly, have you considered using alternative therapies that might work
with depression instead of drugs -- acupuncture, neurotherapy, massage
therapy, or just plain old talk therapy, or talk therapy combined with some
sort of physiological-energy enhancing therapy?
I do not have a teen who is depressed or has been prescribed prozac.
Nor, do I have personal experience with depression or prozac.
I do, however, have a sister (now 49 years old) who has a diagnosed
mental illness (schizophrenia) and have received supportive and
caring referrals from the Mental Health Association of Alameda County.
You can reach them by calling 510/835-5010. They can give
suggestions for you as a parent and for your teen. They also have a
lending library with books and videos.
I hope this is helpful.
Hello to the mother of the 15 year old. I have personal experience with
anti-depressants and I hope I can be of some help, but I am not a health
professional. The medications definately work, and do not in any way
interfere with therapy by "covering up" emotions,a common
misconception.There are many drugs on the market. Prozac is the oldest
of a group of drugs known as selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors.
They act on the seratonin receptors in the brain. Zoloft, Paxil and
Luvox are also SSRI's. The claim is made that they act more quickly,
have fewer side effects, and are safer than the older tricyclic
antidepressants.They are safer, in that an overdose is not life
threatening. They have different side effects, and in general they do
act more quickly. However different depressed people have different
brain chemistry, some will respond to SSRI's, some will respond to
medications that act upon the norepinepherin receptors in the brain (the
tricyclics). I am one of those, so I take a very old and unfashionable
tricyclic antidepressant that no one has heard of but that works
perfectly for me. Effexor,one of the newest drugs on the market,works on
both chemical receptors.Doctors often don't like to explain the possible
side effects lest they discourage the patient or cause the effect to
appear by suggestion. They also don't like to point out to a seriously
depressed person that an overdose of a tricyclic (a weeks supply, for
example)can be fatal. So they generally go for the newer,safer drugs.
The success rate in terms of alleviating depression is no better for the
newer drugs. It all depends on the persons brain chemistry, and the only
method for predicting what will work is trial and error. This requires
time and patience. With all the drugs, it is important to start with a
small dose and gradually move up to the therapeutic dose. It may take
three weeks to arrive at the dose and another two to three weeks to get
any improvement. If a drug is not making a dramatic improvement after
three weeks at the target dose, switch to a different drug. In general,
if you do not respond to Prozac, you may not respond well to other drugs
in that class(Paxil etc) People change from Prozac to Paxil if it works
but Prozac makes them too sleepy, or too hyped up, or too whatever. Is
is not unheard of to go through five or six medications to find the one
that works. Don't give up! When it works, it is a miracle. This may be
more information than you asked for, but I was a depressed teenager in
an era when medication was frowned upon (I am 52 now) and I feel that I
suffered needlessly, so when I saw your note in the newsletter I got all
fired up to write to you. The most important thing I can recommend is to
be in contact with a Psychiatrist that knows medication. There are a lot
of people out there prescribing antidepressants that know very little
about them. Best of luck to you and your daughter.
-- mother of a junior at Berkeley High
this page was last updated: Oct 25, 2013
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network