Many parents who seek help for their teen who are in crisis, struggle with decisions on how to resolve that teen’s mental anguish. For those who have a strong faith in God, they can sometimes feel torn.
It can be a difficult choice on whether they should just rely on God through prayer or go to a medical doctor and have their teen diagnosed and treated with medication.
For other parents, they may solely depend on medication and have God as a back-up plan. And others wing it through various avenues of help and support.
There are also many opinions on this topic, not just from a spiritual aspect, but also from the medical and psychological field as well. My emphasis is not to point to one philosophy over the other. My goal however, is to find a common ground in which the teen becomes the primary focus. And in that, achieve understanding for the differing choices and views when it comes to the best course of action for their healing.
The biggest obstacle in the beginning for most parents is shame and embarrassment. They feel that somehow it is their fault that there is something wrong with their teen or that their child is crazy or what one parent referred them to, as looney.
Mental illness is not the parent’s fault. What is important, is that we as parents should be responsible in getting the help they desperately need and do it quickly.
The first action of healing for any teen is for parents to put that shame and embarrassment aside and make it a priority to put their teen first.
I am not a big proponent of medications unless they have been thoroughly researched and the benefits outweigh some of the side effects. I have tried herbal treatments as well as vitamins (without going over the top) and I found them to be very helpful for my teen that dealt with mood swings and depression. But they did not work for my teen’s anxiety which had to be dealt with differently.
Working with a nutritionist was something I had not considered before, but I found that food can play an integral part of altering and affecting the body. There were quite a few allergens that we did not realize how detrimental they were to the body and mental state until those foods were scaled back or deleted altogether.
Now keep in mind, that what affects one teen will not affect the other and vice versa. Metabolically we are set up completely different and should be treated according to what a body and mind needs and doesn’t need. That goes the same for chemical imbalance in the body. Each child is different and should be treated appropriately.
I would also say the same regarding vitamins. We increased the B vitamins and noticed a difference in the area of depression. Although the depression was still there, a lot of it had lifted. By working with a nutritionists (who also had blood samples taken for testing), we knew exactly what to expect and how to make changes along the way.
Exercise was another good plus as to helping the mental state get back on track. Its positive side is better sleep, less depression, less anxiety and all around better mood.
Again, I would submit to you that we had not ruled out the idea of using medication. Because of the serious nature of our daughter’s mental state of suicidal tendencies and depression, our main concern and focus was to make sure she was not vulnerable for another crisis.
Spiritually, we as parents placed a heavy emphasis on the power of prayer and power of God. We included it in the healing process along with nutrition, physical activity, vitamins, and counseling. We believe that when combining all of these together, there will be a stronger foundation for your teen to stand on for support and improvement.
Yes, medications can work. HOWEVER, you must do your research first. Every medication, even the ones over the counter in the stores have side effects. You just can’t get around them. What I tell parents is this; if your child is in immediate crisis, take the medication prescribed to get them out of crisis first. From there, you and the psychiatrist or mental health worker can team together to tailor those prescriptions as well as starting out with increasing or lowering dosages.
Secondly, you need to monitor the first several months. Write down any changes (good or bad), how long the symptoms last, and get personal with your teen to find out how they are feeling. They also need to check in with the doctor periodically for normal physical changes as they get older. For some teens, when their bodies change, the medication that was controlling their mental issues may not work anymore and you would need to alter that medication or try something different.
It is important that your teen feels like they still have control of their life since some medications can cause a lost or foggy feeling, sporadic behavior issues and even more depression. Unfortunately there is a lot of trial and error because as I mentioned earlier, each body reacts differently to any given intake of medication.
The main goal of the situation is to first make sure your teen is out of crisis. From there, function as normal as possible relieving them during their mental illness so that they feel like they have control of their life again.
I would like to make clear here, that the Church has a difficult time understanding mental illness. Some point to not having enough faith or that the teen is in sin and that is the reason for their dilemma. Faith has nothing to do with mental illness. And as to sin, the mental illness that many teens are struggling with does not pertain to sin in their lives. In many cases, several reasons can cause mental illness. Although we do not have the medical research to know where all mental illness comes from, there is some evidence for others.
One such evidence is a chemical imbalance in the body as mentioned earlier. The second is hereditary. Again, I would repeat that this is not the fault of the parent. The third can be due to severe circumstances of trauma to a child when younger. There are many more reasons of mental illness that still have not been completely defined. But we must be careful to not give it a label or cast blame on the person who is suffering with some quick spiritual answer.
What I have learned through my own journey of speaking with others as well as knowing others struggling with a mental illness is that the Church is not prepared in handling those who are hurting from these issues.
Should we step back and point the fingers of judgment and wrongdoing by the Church when honestly, they do not have the tools or knowledge in this area? They need to be educated like anyone else and slowly I am seeing a change for the better in this area.
Several things would need to change if we as parents would like to see a shift in how the Church handles mental illness. However, that means that you as the parents also need to step out in faith and not keep your teen’s illness a secret.
I realize that for many parents they are fearful of being shamed, judged, and even turned away. It is important that you must try and make every effort to inform, educate, and continue looking for a place that does understand and can be a great comfort.
Meeting with clergy or pastors is a start by educating them on your family’s situation. I would also give some professional material that educates them about the type of illness your teen is facing so that they have a better guide to what is happening and how to help your family.
It would also be a great advantage to be a part of a support group or to start one. It is always beneficial to not only have support from other parents, but also having the clergy or pastor participate so that they can have a better comprehension of what each family is dealing with and how to minister to them.
By doing so, you could be opening the doors for other parents who are living in secret of their own family’s mental illness. What a blessing that would be to find others who are also looking for answers and need encouragement too.
Lastly, it is imperative to also have the church meet with a local counselor that specifically understands mental illness and how to respond in a supporting manner. In the end, it is a team effort in which everyone benefits and finds healing in the process.
I would still encourage a group effort in the Church consisting of leaders, parents, and counselors to work together as a team to give the help needed for teens with mental illness. If we do not give that support, they will find it through another source that could put that teen in jeopardy and in a far worse state.
One last word. I know of stories where the parents did everything under the sun – counseling, medication, mental institutions, and more and yet their child is living on the streets, stealing, doing drugs, disappearing for lengths of time, having mental breakdowns, and the list goes on and on. Those parents are hurting, devastated, at a loss, heavy burdened, and yet, they love their child and would do anything for them. But unfortunately as much as they tried, they have no control over their child, especially when that child becomes an adult. There is only one answer for situations such as these – Prayer!
There are times in which you have to just place your child in God’s hands, asking for protection, for clarity, for healing, and to come back home. My heart breaks for those parents who always ask, “Did I do enough? Could I have done things differently? Will my child ever get better?” Every day they struggle to find hope that their child not only return home, but return to reality. They need our encouraging words and prayers.
I leave you with these scriptures to remind you that God hears your heart, knows your pain and is walking with you in your journey of despair. He will answer those prayers. Just continue to hold on to His promises and His Word, staying faithful even in the dark times.
He is looking over your child. Keep seeking the Lord for wisdom, discernment, and strength. There are various ways that the Lord answers. Keep trusting in Him and ask the Lord to reveal to you what He wants you to see. He will impart to you what you need to know.
I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8
I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. Genesis 28:15
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3
I am your hiding place, I will protect you from trouble and surround you with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Psalm 32:7,8