Carol Clemans

Certified Pastoral Counselor

(636) 448-0121

SYNOPSIS STATEMENT:  We will discuss the possible sources of depression in youth.  To understand that depression could be dangerous and lead to threat of suicide that needs to be taken seriously. Depression is not inherited, but usually caused by a person’s attitude and behavior, rooted in unresolved anger and guilt feelings about life’s experiences. God’s truth will bring healing to depression when the person makes a decision to take action to change their thinking with forgiveness being a key issue.

NOTE: Some of the following information is from THE COMPLETE LIFE         ENCYCLOPEDIA written by Doctors Minirth, Meier & Arterburn.

Depression is the number one mental health problem in America.  Depression occurs two times more likely in females than males.  Depression has more to do with anger than sadness.  Depression takes place in the mind and the emotions, but also has a powerful and destructive effect on the body.

Depression is the number one cause of suicide, and suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.  Never take a suicide threat lightly.  It may be appropriate to get professional help when suicide is talked about.  A youth leader would not want the responsibility of a youth committing suicide if forewarned.  I recommend that you encourage the youth with their parents’ approval to get a physical by a medical doctor.

The following are some of the symptoms and personality traits commonly seen in youth who are depressed.

  • worry and pessimism
  • low energy; weariness
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • feelings of helplessness
  • feelings of guilt
  • low self-worth
  • bitterness, anger, resentment
  • loss of weight or increase in weight
  • frequent crying
  • headaches
  • feelings of being unloved and mistreated
  • belief that life is not worth living
  • craving of love from others
  • clinging behavior
  • feeling rejected
  • feelings of isolation

Along with low self-esteem and loneliness there is usually a feeling of not being close with God.  The anger or guilt that is present in a depressed person pulls them away from his/her belief that God loves them unconditionally.

When working with a depressed youth, it’s important to build a rapport with them that helps them feel “safe” in sharing their life’s story with you.  Their fist response will probably be no response.  One reason they are depressed is because they are suppressing their feelings that takes a lot of emotional energy.  We call it “stuffing the vat.”  One reason they do not want to share is because they are afraid of dealing with their anger or guilt.  These are powerful emotions.

Depression can start by events in life such as a death of family member, divorce of parents, a health problem, a major move, a friend’s rejection, sexual abuse, being involved in sinful activities, a break up with boy/girl friend, etc. It’s the external events and then how they are interpreted internally that is the basis for depressed feelings.

Depression is often a natural by-product of sin, and that depression usually remains until the sin has been confessed and forgiven by God and the youth takes ownership of the forgiveness. Many times depression remains because the forgiven accepts it as “head knowledge” and not in the heart.  They must be reminded that when God forgives, He also forgets.  God’s truth is that He is faithful and just to forgive our sins when we confess to Him.  Romans 8: 1 & 2 tells us that we have no reason for condemnation when we are in Christ Jesus.

If the basis of the depression is anger towards self or others, it must be confessed also.  Anger in itself is not sinful.  God tells us to be angry, but sin not.  For example, if the youth’s parents have divorced, there could be anger toward one or both parents, plus the distorting thinking that somehow the divorce is the youth’s fault.  As a youth leader, you could help the depressed youth to talk about why they are angry.  What is God’s truth about the situation?  Is the divorce the youth’s fault?

Healing comes through the ability to share feelings in a “safe” environment.  As youth leader (you are a counselor), you can help the youth sort through the truth of their circumstances and see God’s perspective on the situation.  Maybe the youth needs to be able to talk to the divorced parents and share their true feelings instead of “stuffing” them.  Remember, you can’t fix a depressed person.  You can be God’s helper in encouraging the depressed youth to look at Jesus’ life on earth and what He suffered in the flesh.  Jesus knew rejection, abuse, physical pain, and much more.  From the time of His conception there was a negative cloud over His life in the eyes of others.  He is touched by the problems of our life that we go through.  Bring that thought to life for the depressed youth.  I call it ‘bringing God down out of heaven and let Him walk on earth’ for a while in our thinking.  It creates an intimacy with God.

Forgiveness is a key issue in recovering from depression.  Unforgiveness imprisons us in the pain of the past.  Whatever the circumstances of the pain from the past or present which might create anger, bitterness or unforgiveness, we must forgive and let go and allow God to be our avenger.  Romans 12: 19-21 tells us that God is our avenger and we are not to be overcome by evil, but we are to overcome evil with good.

We are accountable to God for our thoughts, feelings and actions.  When we process our emotions through God’s truth, we are empowered with His strength and peace.  The ‘others’ who caused our pain will also be accountable to God in God’s timing.

Forgiveness is making a choice and an act of the will. Forgiveness is an act of healthy, biblical self-love.  Love God and others AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF.  This is the greatest commandment.  Forgiveness is an ongoing process.  Keep obeying God with the choice to forgive and your ‘feelings’ about forgiving will gradually catch up with your decision to forgive.  Jesus forgave those who killed Him!  We have His Spirit dwelling in us and by His power we can forgive too.

It would be wonderful if every church would activate a mentoring program between older and younger.  A depressed youth would greatly benefit by having an older, spiritual, same-sex, mentor whose chief purpose would be to listen.  Everyone needs validation through love, acceptance, encouragement and a spiritual example.

© Carol Clemans – September 2009