From the Diary of an Unfit Mind

From the Diary of an Unfit Mind
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Teen Anxiety & Depression: What to Look For & How to Help

July 13, 2017

My teens through early twenties were the roughest stretch of road in my mental health journey. I struggled searching for answers concerning my depression. On top of dealing with awkward growth spurts, bad skin, peer pressure and stress from school, I had a storm brewing in my head that I didn’t fully understand yet. Trying to figure out who you are in your already complicated youth only gets more difficult when you add mental health struggles to the equation. Which is why I am so grateful to be an ambassador for The Jed Foundation, a leading mental health organization fighting to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. JED’s Mental Health Resource Center provides essential information about common emotional health issues and shows teens and young adults how they can support one another, overcome challenges and make a successful transition to adulthood. For more info visit:

The following resources can be found at     

    Young adulthood can be a time of significant change and intense challenges. We see the effects every day: a death from binge drinking, an overdose, a suicide. These tragedies are complex and their warning signs often subtle. With the right support and safety nets, the high school and college years can be safer and more manageable.

If you are concerned that someone you care about is experiencing depression: 

You have probably noticed changes in that person’s mood, thoughts, feelings and the way they act around you. It is likely these changes have lasted longer than you would have expected (not just a bad day, or a bad mood) and have caused you concern. Though there are many specific ways to tell that someone has depression, the first thing you may notice is that you have a feeling in your gut that someone you know is struggling and down. It is good to follow your instincts and encourage anyone you are concerned about to get help.

You might observe these things if a person you know is depressed:

How they may look

-There may be a change in how they take care of themselves – you may notice they are not showering, changing clothes or taking an interest in make-up or haircuts, etc.

-They may look down or sad, or even show no emotion at all. They could also appear angry or anxious.

How they may act or behave

-They may sleep for hours and yet still act and feel tired.

-Some people may cry a lot, but others may seem very irritable or angry when they are feeling sad (this is particularly the case for men).

-They may overreact to things – get angry, sad or offended easily.

-They may no longer want to do the things that they used to enjoy doing.

-They don’t want to be with friends or family and seem to prefer to be left alone.

-They may lose their appetite and can’t eat or may eat more than usual.

-They can’t remember things, they have a hard time making decisions and they can’t concentrate on conversation, TV, reading, social media, studying, or simple tasks, etc.

How they may talk or what they might say

You may notice that they are often saying things like:

-“I’m totally worthless.”

-“I just can’t take it.”

-“What’s the point?”

-“I wish I could just not wake up.”

-“I’m messing everything up in my life.”

-“I’ve let people down.”

-“I don’t feel well.” (or other physical complaints such as a headache or stomach ache)

What you may see on social media

-Posting comments such as “I hate myself,” or “I suck at everything.”

-Posting dark poetry or quotes, disturbing songs or videos

-Using hashtags that are connected to worrisome trends

-Using sad, distressed emoticons or emoticons of destructive things such as guns, knives, etc.

If you think someone you know is depressed, let them know you are concerned. Suggestions on how you can start this conversation include:

-“I’m worried about you because you seem…” (e.g., really down or sad a lot of the time, to be spending most of your day in bed and are missing all of your classes, etc.)

-“It concerned me when you said…” and be specific about what you heard

-“Do you want to talk about it?”; “What can I do to help?”

-Tell them what you have noticed and why it worries you

-Listen (really, listen) if they are willing to share their worries with you

-Try to avoid judgment or jumping to conclusions

-Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers

-Be comfortable with silence

-Be there for them

-Sometimes just knowing that someone cares and is there for them is all someone needs to get through a difficult time

-Let them know that it is possible to feel better and they are not alone

-Offer to help (for example, make their bed, straighten up their desk, help with laundry or other chores, etc.)

-Someone may not be ready to follow your advice and seek help. Continue to revisit the issue over time so they know you can support them whenever they are ready

Someone I know may be at risk of suicide

While no one can predict when or if someone they know will die by suicide, there are some common indicators that a young person may be struggling and in need of help and support. When someone is at risk for suicide you will be struck by the changes in their personality, attitude or behavior. It is important to know that help and treatment for people at risk of suicide are widely available.

Common signs of suicidal thoughts and behaviors

-Talking about wanting to end it all; in person, via text or on social media

-Expressing guilt (e.g., “I’m a terrible person”) or hopelessness (e.g., “What’s the point, things will never get better”)

-Withdrawal from everyday life (e.g., no longer spending time with friends or engaging in previously enjoyable hobbies/school activities)

-Asking about or actively seeking access to means to self-harm (e.g., weapons, pills, etc.)

-Giving away personal possessions

-Changes in use of substances (alcohol and/or drug use)

-Change in eating and sleeping habits

-Violent or unusually rebellious behavior; running away

-Drug or alcohol use

-Neglecting their appearance, change in their usual grooming habits

-Persistent boredom

-Change in physical health. Persistent complaints about ailments such as headaches and stomach aches

-Not tolerating praise or reward

If you notice someone you care about exhibiting any of the common signs or significant changes listed above, there are things you can do to help. Trust your gut. It is best to express your concerns directly, ask them specifically about suicide, and help them to get support and help as soon as possible.

Express your concern and ask questions:

It is important to remember that you can’t put the idea of suicide into someone’s head or cause them to want to harm themselves just because you ask – it is always best to be direct. Asking directly about thoughts of suicide can help in the following ways:

-It may be a relief to know they are not alone and that you care enough to bring it up

-It may be comforting that you aren’t afraid to help them face their problems

-It will help you figure out how urgent it is for you to get help – if they say they have a specific plan and intend to act on it, get help immediately

Listen and be there for them:

Suicidal thoughts are a frightening experience for the person struggling with them and for their friends and loved ones. If you don’t know what to say, it can be just as helpful to stay with them, listen quietly, and offer comfort through your presence. If they are able to open up and talk or write about their difficulties, avoid judgment or jumping to conclusions and don’t feel like you have to have answers.

Don’t let it go:

Stay in touch, stay connected and keep lines of communication open. Suicidal thoughts and feelings are a sign of deep pain, serious problems and indicate a loss of ability to cope with things in more self-preserving ways. It is common to feel overwhelmed when you are worried about someone at risk for suicide – ask someone you trust to help out with keeping in touch with your friend who is at risk.

Get support and guidance for yourself:

It’s best to openly discuss your concerns and observations with a trusted adult or advisor, or go to your college counseling center professionals to talk about the things that worry you about your friend or loved one. It is always appropriate to discuss your concerns about a person at risk for suicide – the benefit of keeping your friend safe outweighs the loss of confidentiality or of friendship.

If your instincts tell you that someone is in crisis and needs immediate help or if you believe that they are at imminent risk of hurting themselves:

-If you are on a college campus, the campus counseling center can offer help and support for students at risk for suicide – offer to help them call to be seen or go with them to the counseling center

-Stay with them while you assist them in getting help

-Call 911

-You can also Text START to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

-Or bring your friend or loved one to the nearest Emergency Department

-If someone is agitated or potentially violent, avoid putting yourself in a personally dangerous situation – call 911 rather than bringing someone to the hospital yourself

Helpful Resources:

-At any time, you can reach out to Crisis Text Line (CTL) to ask for advice or your friend or loved one can reach out to get support. Crisis Text Line serves anyone, experiencing any difficulty, providing access to free support and information via text. Here’s how it works:

-Text START to 741-741 from anywhere in the USA

A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds quickly

-or call 1-800-273 TALK (8255)

-You can also contact The Trevor Project, specializing in supporting the LGBTQ community: call 866-488-7386 or text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200

-American Foundation for Suicide Prevention- Know the warning signs of suicide:

-National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- How to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide:

-SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Locator:

This guide, while evidence based, is for informational and educational purposes only

and is not intended to constitute medical advice or be a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.


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