What do I do if my child is struggling with depression?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

Depression as a mental health issue is never explicitly discussed in the Bible, because being diagnosed with depression is a relatively recent medical condition. However, if we were to look at some of the passages and people in the Bible, they clearly exhibit signs of depression. Some examples we see in the Bible are Abraham, Job, and David. A great example is Jeremiah who even wrote a book called Lamentations! We see in a multitude of Psalms from David the emotion of depression, whether that is from sadness or guilt. It is important to see that depression is not a new thing and that even the most faithful of people can get depressed. The Bible gives lots of hope for those that are battling with depression. Psalm 34:17-18 says, "When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit"(ESV). Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"(ESV). The Bible is filled with hope, and we need only to look to Jesus and rest ourselves in his strength and comfort.

Things to think about:

Depression can be hard to see in the life of a child, especially during the teenage years. Teens are known for their changing moods, and so it can be difficult to put your fingers on the pulse of a particular issue. A depressed person often will exhibit signs of sadness or hopelessness. It is often common to see signs of anger and irritability, which can often be used as a mask to cover up inner sadness. Another sign that a teen might express is a lack of care or concern, and an unwillingness to participate in activities/events. You may see signs of depression with problems at school, reckless behavior, or low self-esteem. In extreme examples, a teen may talk about or mention suicide.  Talk about suicide is a serious issue, and is dealt with in more detail in this article(link to suicide article). If you think your child is exhibiting some of these symptoms, then the first step is to talk with them. Talk to them in a loving, non-judgemental manner, and be honest and open with them on how this makes you feel as well. When talking with your teen listen to them without lecturing and empathize with their feelings.

What do I do now?

Depression is a serious issue, especially for the person going through the depression. It is so important for you to build a team of people around that person that can support and help them. Begin by having people pray for your family and the child. Rely on the Lord and His word and lean into your local church for help. Talk with your child and ask them who they feel comfortable talking to about this issue. Here are some basic things you can help your child with in early stages of depression:

  • Help them feel less isolated and alone
  • Encourage and uplift them
  • Have fun with them
  • Encourage more sleep, better eating, and more exercise

If the problem feels large, then you may need to seek professional help with a trained counselor or therapist. Above all else, know that depression can take time and energy to work through. It is vastly important that throughout this whole process, you the parent should continue loving and supporting your child in their time of need.

Want to go deeper?

Here are a few great resources to help:

Depression and the Church - Great article about what Christians should know about depression.

Celebrate Recovery - Christian self-help group that is throughout the nation.

Christian Counseling Search - Focus On the Family's search tool to find a local Christian counselor.