Q: My 16-year old daughter is very depressed. She doesn’t talk to us, just stays in her room and sleeps. She sees a psychologist regularly and goes to a psychiatrist for medication. Is this normal? What else can I do?
A: I’ve worked with dozens of severely-depressed students, a very common (and in my opinion) one of the most serious and overlooked issues that today’s teenagers face.
Many times, I’ve helped students who were suicidal. Most parents do not want to know how to deal with this illness. Some students have come to me so distraught about what is going on their lives they begin to cry. Some self-harm themselves through physically cutting, burning, or scratching. Most are afflicted with eating disorders.
Nearly all have seen a psychologist and a psychiatrist but still choose to reveal their intimate problems to me. Of course, I am bound by confidentiality to discuss their issues — unless they are on the verge of suicide. Anything we may talk about will not be disclosed unless I feel that the student may be an immediate threat to themselves or to others. After 27 years of being an Independent College Counselor, I know how extremely important it is to deal with all issues affecting my students.
How can you help them select the right college if you aren’t aware of what’s happening in their personal life? That is why I work very differently than other Independent College Counselors. A student’s current mental health is as important to me as their college future. I also keep in touch with my kids during their college years, especially when I know they still need me.
I continue to advise them about their current concerns or to consult a psychologist immediately after arrival at a college with new issues.
If a psychiatrist is not working currently with your student, I advise finding someone else immediately. Do not wait. Check your daughter’s body for any evidence of self-inflicted physical harm, even fading discolorations. If you suspect she’s hurting herself, try as hard as you can to open some kind of dialogue with her. If she remains non-communicative, don’t pressure her until you know some kind of mutual comfort level has been achieved.
Let her know continuously how much you love her. While staying outwardly calm and sympathetic, you inwardly must think about running — not walking — to get her professional help. Above all, do not worsen the situation by provoking an argument, even if frustrated with her lack of communication. React seriously about any statement or answer she replies to your questions. Try to make her understand you are there to suggest ways she can help herself, not to give her orders or instructions on how to behave.
In one instance, I find my own daughter’s friends use Uber taxi service quite often, as their parents rationalize they can attend parties where alcohol is served if they don’t have to drive. (I receive numerous inquiries on this issue but do not endorse any service or product, only providing information my students have relayed to me).
In this case, it appears the parents appear right. Their teenagers love Uber because they feel they’ve been given permission by their parents to drink. That’s why I’m appalled by the laissez-faire attitude of the parents involved.
On a positive side, I have students with working moms, visiting me from Miami Beach, South Dade and Fort Lauderdale. They don’t drive but do their homework, coming and going while using Uber.
Just like anything else, it can be a benefit or a hindrance, depending on how you use it.
Toby Rose, an Independent College Counselor for the past 27 years, served a three-year term as President of the Pinecrest Business Association and continues to serve as its Education Chairperson. She was a Miami-Dade Outstanding Teacher and served as Chairperson of the Dade County School Board Academic Advisory Committee and as a National Vice President of Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority. A member of the University of Miami Women’s Guild and the American Association of University Women, she can be contacted at 305-790-3746 or firstname.lastname@example.org>. Her website is <www.tobyrose.com>.