Archive for the ‘depression’ Category


Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

(part 1 can be found here)

Chronic health problems or long-term personal issues often trigger adult suicide attempts. Teenage suicide attempts are often triggered by problems in relationships; especially significant “break ups” or major disruptions in relationships with close friends or family members. When relationships end it can be very difficult, even under the best of circumstances, so when your teenager looses their boyfriend or girlfriend it can be very traumatic, especially if they have emotionally invested a lot of themselves in the relationship. For many teenagers their relationship with their significant other is viewed as the “best thing that ever happened” to them. Consequently, when this relationship is lost you may need to treat it as such. This may be really hard to understand as an adult because so often we are tempted to see these relationships as “childish” or “just a phase.”

Parents of suicidal teenagers often overlook the loss of this kind of relationship. For some it is because the teenager has kept the relationship a secret. For others it is simply because parents often underestimate the power of these young relationships over their child. The answer to this problem is awareness. Parent getting and staying connected with their kids; parents earning the right to talk with their teenagers about their “love life” by meeting and loving their child as they are, listening well, and communicating a genuine sense of love and care that transcends the felt need to lecture and coerce.

Problems in school seem to be a pretty common theme with teenagers and suicide attempts; problems with grades and performance, of course, but perhaps more are their relationships with friends (White, 1999). As a parent you send your kids to school to get an education, but an education is only half of what they receive. Peer relationships are vital to your child’s development, however; as you may already know, teenage peer relationships can be very complicated. Social blunders often overlooked in the adult world are exploited by teenagers and used as a means of singling out certain individuals and targeting them for social punishment. Time and again I have worked with teenagers who made a mistake, made someone else angry, or hurt a specific person’s feelings and subsequently were socially destroyed; targeted, attacked and essentially “kicked out” of their group of friends. As a result many teenagers will begin to feel rejected, lonely, hopeless, and worthless.

A significant breach in the relationship between a parent and a child can be devastating at any age. Family fights are often the trigger of suicide attempts and need to be handled with care (White, 1999). May of the parents of suicidal teenagers I work with often appear surprised when I inform them that abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual) is often associated with suicide attempts. Perhaps this is due to the dramatic nature of abuse as a very “messy subject” and inability to cope with their child being abused. However, abuse, in all its forms, is often a trigger of suicidal thoughts and cannot be overlooked. Also the loss of a significant family member, especially a parent, through death, divorce, or abandonment can be a major trigger. Many times teenagers (and children) will begin to think that they were the reason their parent is gone, blaming themselves for their situation in a manner in which they will begin to struggle with feelings of self-hatred and self-destruction.


  • Use and/or abuse of drugs and alcohol (some drugs can trigger this kind of stuff)
  • Feeling hopeless, alone, or alienated
  • Recent suicide of a friend, family, or role model
  • Legal problems
  • Moving
  • Failure
  • Access to a weapon (White, 1999)

***Any advice given on this website is offered in generic form. In other words, all of our site visitors have unique qualities that play a role in their personal mental health. We do not know you personally and can therefore not take into consideration these qualities when offering advice, and do not claim to do so. All information provided on this site is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing psychologist, mental health professional, teacher, or professor.***


White, T. W. (1999). How to identify suicidal people: A systemic approach to risk assessment. The Charles Press Publishers, Inc., PA.

by Joe James, Psy.D.
other articles on teens


Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Unfortunately teenage suicide is relatively common. It is the 3rd leading cause of death among teenagers (White, 1999), with thoughts of suicide occurring in as many as 29% of teens, 19% having made a plan, and as many as 8% having attempted (Brener, Krug, Simon, 2000; Kandel, Raveis, & Davies, 1991). Dealing with teenage suicide can be very difficult because it is affected by many factors that can change quickly making prediction very, very difficult. Adults and parents tend to downplay self-destructive behavior stating “its normal”, “I did the same thing when I was a kid”, and “they don’t mean it, they just want attention.” This kind of thinking can be a big mistake (White, 1999).

First and foremost, you need to be on the look out for symptoms of teenage depression. Teenage depression often looks a little different; irritability and aggression appear to be more common, especially in boys. Also a depressed teen may struggle with acting without thinking first. Depression accounts for up to ½ of all serious suicide attempts and needs to be taken seriously (Fergussion et al., 2003).
Depression often shows up in teenagers as:

  • Sleep disturbance (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Change in eating habits (eating too much or too little)
  • Hyperactivity or loss of energy
  • Serious risk taking
  • Change in school performance
  • Thoughts of suicide or other morbid preoccupations
  • Adolescents may also present with significant irritability, sexuality, and physical symptoms (stomach pain, headaches etc.) (White, 1999)

Many of these symptoms of depression may come and go, that’s normal, however when a few of them come around and seem to have trouble leaving for a week or two something is up and action may need to taken to protect your child. Also, please know that prior suicide attempts place your child in a very high-risk category and you will need to speak with a mental health specialist regarding enacting an adequate Safety Plan to ensure your teenagers safety.

Second, you need to be looking for problems in your family that may be upsetting your teen such as:

  • Teenage or family history of abuse (physical, emotional, and especially sexual)
  • Low levels of family connection (ie. poor relationships with parents, severe conflict with siblings)
  • Significant changes in the family such as a parental divorce or separation, a major move to a new location, or the death of a loved one
  • Family violence
  • Parental drug and alcohol abuse
  • Parental contact with the law
  • Family history of suicide (Debski et al., 2007)

***Any advice given on this website is offered in generic form. In other words, all of our site visitors have unique qualities that play a role in their personal mental health. We do not know you personally and can therefore not take into consideration these qualities when offering advice, and do not claim to do so. All information provided on this site is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing psychologist, mental health professional, teacher, or professor.***

Brener, N. D., Krug, E. G., Simon, T. R. (2000). Trends in suicide ideation and suicide behavior among high school students in the United States, 1991-1997. Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior, 30, 304-312.

Debski, J., Spadafore, C. D., Jacob, S., Poole, D., & Hixon, M. D. (2007). Suicide intervention: Training, roles, and knowledge of school psychologists. Psychology in the Schools, 44(2), 157-170.

Fergusson, D. M., Beautrais, A. L., & Horwood, L. J. (2003). Vulnerability and resiliency to suicidal behaviors in young people. Psychological Medicine, 33, 61-73.

Kandel, D. B., Raveis, V. H., & Davies, M. (1991). Suicidal ideation in adolescence: Depression, substance use, and other risk factors. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 20, 289-309.

White, T. W. (1999). How to identify suicidal people: A systemic approach to risk assessment. The Charles Press Publishers, Inc., PA.

by  Joe James, Psy.D.

(more articles on teenagers)

What Causes Depression

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

There is no single known cause of depression. Rather, it likely results from a combination of a number of factors. Psychology textbooks like to talk about “nature versus nurture”: are people’s problems the result of genetics and brain chemistry (nature) or the result of family environment, life experiences, and choices (nurture)? The truth is that nearly all of human experience is some combination of both.


Depression is no different. If you ask your family doctor, she might tell you that depression is a “chemical imbalance”: there are not enough serotonin or dopamine molecules hanging around in your brain waiting to be used. The solution for a chemical imbalance is – medication.

A counselor might tell you that depression is the result of distorted or negative thinking. If you want to change how you feel, you have to change how you think.

The best research indicates that depression does affect the way the brain works. New technologies have shown that the brains of people who are depressed look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior appear to function abnormally. We also know that people who are depressed view the world in globally negative terms.

So which came first?  Did brain chemistry create negative thinking?  Or, did negative cognitions change the chemical make-up of the brain?  How we think – what we say to ourselves – can lead to a chemical imbalance. Likewise, not enough neurotransmitters in the brain can cause us to see the world as completely negative.

The best thing one can do for mild or moderate depression is to work on changing perceptions and self-talk. For severe depression, a combination of anti-depressant medication and counseling may be in order.  If I had to choose one or the other, I would pick counseling… medication may help me function more effectively, but – in the end – it won’t change what I say to myself.

-G. Bowden McElroy, M.Ed.

(for additional articles on depression: click here)

8 Things To Do to Help Beat Depression

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

beat-depressionImprove the quality of your life by taking control of depression before it takes control of you.
Depression can sometimes be managed with a few techniques. A few suggestions to try when you
begin to feel down include:

1.  Pay Attention to Your Self-Talk. Stop reminding yourself of all the things presently going wrong. Instead, conjure up memories from happier times. Remember that thought content = Mood.

2. Stop the negative thinking. Thought stopping is a simple technique
to learn and is very effective in redirecting negative thoughts. A counselor can help you learn this helpful tool.

3. Avoid social isolation. Spend time with people you enjoy, those who care about you. Many people also enjoy interacting with a pet to help lift their low mood.

4. Focus on one day at a time. Remind yourself that this is a temporary emotional state that will pass.

5. Write a Gratitude Journal. At the end of each day, list five things you are grateful for. Read through your journal throughout the day if necessary.

6. Get Active. Exercise is beneficial in reducing body tension, improving sleep, increasing energy and decreasing stress. Being outdoors often helps elevate your mood; so take a walk, ride
a bike, or simply sit on the porch and enjoy God’s creation.

7. Eat healthy! Sugar effects depression and irritability. Eating right will help you feel better, give you more energy, and help you look better too (which will likely raise self-esteem).

8. Enlist the help of a trusted person to help you monitor the depression and give you feedback on what they observe. If you can’t shake free of the depression, seek assistance from a professional counselor.

-Lois Trost

Lois Trost headshot

Holiday Family Challenges

Monday, November 12th, 2012

The holidays are stressful in many ways.  The increase in activities, shopping, travel, and extra costs are only the beginning of the list of stressors.   Holidays are also filled with increased family stressors, such as:

–       Increased family expectations to spend time together

–       Pressure to conform to family traditions

–       Seeing family members who may be kept at arms-length during the rest of the year

–       Reminders of family members who have died

–       Exposure to increased alcohol consumption among some family members

–       Children spending time out of school and at home

–       Reminders of family hurts and disappointments

–       Increased dealings with extended family and in-laws

Even the healthiest of families contain personalities and family members whose personal values clash, or where some family members’ behavior is difficult to be near. These pressures contribute to breakdowns in communication and increased conflict.

We strive to establish comfortable levels of distance and boundaries during the year.  This often collapses around the holidays when we change our routines and increase contact with our extended family.  Intrusions and offenses increase.  Occasionally, these gatherings result in conflict that includes unpleasant escalations and hurtful words.

Though it is probably impossible for most of us to eliminate family stresses and conflicts altogether, there are some ways to reduce stress.  Consider some of the following options:

–       Parents, prior to making holiday plans, can reconsider and re-negotiate what is best for their family, rather than simply doing the same things that have been expected in the past.

  • When visiting conflict-prone family members, make visits shorter
  • When traveling out of town, consider motels rather than cramming large numbers of people into small spaces.  This also allows for some private times to de-stress.
  • Some family confrontations are predictable.  It’s okay to intentionally plan to avoid unproductive and vulnerable situations.
  • When stressors and conflicts are building during a visit, go for a walk or a drive with safe people to decompress.

–        When unresolved conflicts with family members can be identified in advance, be pro-active.  Consider your best conflict-resolution skills and plan to use them in advance of holiday get-togethers.  When you have made your best effort to seek peace with problem family members and it hasn’t worked, consider consulting an expert on family conflict.  They may be able to suggest tools you may not have considered, or they may be able to mediate civil conversations (at CFI we frequently mediate conflicts over the holidays and any time during the year.)

–       If you have lost a significant family member recently, make time to celebrate and honor that person.  Do it in a way that is most meaningful to you.

–       Make the reason for the season central to your family get-togethers.  Christmas is about Christ and His great gift of His life to us through his birth on earth.  Even when surrounded by others who may not share your faith, renew your own celebration of Christ with those who do share your faith.  Pick out verses from scripture that speak to your situation and that assist you to have a fresh perspective and renewed mind, such as:

  • Regarding Christmas:
    • The Christmas Story from Matthew 1
  • The importance of married people setting limits with family:
    • Genesis 2:24 (NIV)  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
  • Dealing With Anger and Conflict:
    • Proverbs 15:1  (NLTSE)  A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.
    • Proverbs 18:13 (MSG)  Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.
    • Romans 12:18 (NIV)  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
    • Proverbs 22:24 (NIV)  Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered,
  • The Goal To Love:
    • Ephesians 4:15 (NLTSE) Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
    • I Tim. 1:5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
    • I Cor. 13:4-8 (NIV) [4] Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. [5] It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. [6] Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [7] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.[8] Love never fails.
  • We, like Jesus, need time to reflect, refresh, and pray:
    • Mark 1:35 (NIV)  Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
  • Finding Peace in Even the Most Stressful  Circumstances:
    • Phil. 4:4-8 [4] Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! [5] Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. [6] Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. [7] And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.[8] Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. [9] Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Merry Christ-mas!

Dale R. Doty, Ph.D.

Does Exercise Help Treat Depression?: A Response to The Atlantic’s Study of the Day

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Republished from

The Atlantic Study of the Day for July 10, 2012 summarizes an article that was published in the

British Medical Journal: “Facilitated Physical Activity as a Treatment for Depressed Adults: Randomised Controlled Trial.”

The Atlantic’s article title, summary, and conclusions are misleading.  The Atlantic reports that the study either provided medical treatment (i.e. pharmacological prescription) plus encouragement to exercise, or encouragement to exercise ONLY.  The group that took part in exercise ONLY, were not much better off at the end of the study as it pertains to depression. Nowhere in the study was any form of talk therapy or counseling included.  Also, as a measure of depression, the Beck Depression Inventory is a useful clinical tool, but perhaps not sensitive enough to pick up on nuanced changes in one’s depression from time to time.

My advice…if you are struggling with depression, the best course of action is to seek out talk therapy with a trusted therapist and increase activities that allow our bodies’ neurochemicals to become more balanced:  such as, regular exercise, good sleep hygiene, and well-balanced diet.  Included in talk therapy, I think it is helpful for individuals struggling with depression to take a look at their broader social connections and increase relational satisfaction.  So, in conclusion, I am not terribly surprised that exercise ALONE did not cure depression, but exercise in combination with an individualized, guided approach to treatment is healthy and helpful.

Dr. Tim Doty

FAQ: Why do Christians get depressed?

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Christians are not immune to depression.  Christians face the same challenges as non-Christians.  Depression can affect anyone, at any age, race or ethnic group.  According to the National Institute for Mental Health, clinical depression affects more than 19 million Americans each year.  Some Christians do not seek help for depression when prayer alone has not led to relief.  Spiritual factors may not be the only contributing factor to one’s experience of depression.  Christian Family Institute specializes in treating the spiritual, emotional, and mental health needs of individuals, couples and families.

Is anxiety/depression hereditary?

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

This is the age-old question of nature vs. nurture.  Are mood disorders (depression/anxiety) a result of nature (genetics/brain chemistry) or nurture (upbringing/environment)?

It may be beneficial to think in terms of risk factors: the more risk factors that are present, the more likely depression or anxiety is to develop.  Having family members with a mood disorder may elevate the risk, but it doesn’t doom someone to the disorder.

At Christian Family Institute we view anxiety and depression as a combination of biological, psychological, social and spiritual factors.  All of these components are considered when treating mood disorders.

Avoiding Holiday Blues

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Bowden McElroy

Strategies to Minimize Holiday Blues
1. Create new traditions
2. Focus on what God expects of you
3. Boycott the mall!
4. Set aside time to grieve
5. Be proactive in preventing loneliness
6. “Cut the apron strings” and place  family priorities above  families-of-origin.

Originally posted on Bowden McElroy’s Counseling Notes Blog, Nov. 21, 2007.

Bowden McElroy. M.Ed., LPC

Grief in Bleak Midwinter

Monday, December 14th, 2009

If you have lost a loved one in the last year, then you will likely find this holiday season to be painful. Instead of celebrating, you may find yourself feeling very sad, angry and wanting to isolate. People often find the first holiday after a significant loss to be the most difficult. You may be asking yourself “How am I going to get through this Christmas?” Here are a few suggestions for working your way through:

1) Set realistic expectations for yourself. The most realistic expectation may be that you just get through this season. Hosting parties and spending time and energy on special gifts may be too much to accomplish this year. Make sure you talk with your family about any changes you need to make.

2) Make sure you take care of yourself. Grief takes a lot of energy. You may not be able to do all (or any) the holiday activities. One of the best self care acts: get enough rest.

3) Keep on grieving. Be careful about allowing yourself to be distracted from grieving by the activities of this season.

4) Keep talking. This holiday season is not the time to neglect your thoughts and feelings. In fact, now more than ever you may struggle with deep sorrow, crushing anger and devastating loneliness. These are experiences to talk about to trusted friends and family. If you have a therapist, make sure you make an appointment before Christmas, even if you do not think you need it.

5) Do something to honor your loved one. Light a candle during Christmas Eve dinner or attend a Longest Night Service ( find information on the events page in the November newsletter). Find something meaningful to mark your loved one’s place in the family.

Grief can be a difficult and complicated process and a holiday season will often add to the struggle. If you feel you need extra help and support during this time, please call The Christian Family Institute at 745-0095. Any of our therapists can help you through your grief.

Jill Butler, MS, LMFTWebsite photo of Jill2