Today, I came across a disturbing study published in Pediatrics.
The study indicated that teen girls and young adult women are especially at risk for depression, which included those 12 to 20 years old.
While this is terrible, what I found most disheartening was while the rate of depression is rising, the number of those seeking treatment is not.
As someone who has struggled with depression, and as someone who has watched family members struggle with anxiety and depression, I know the importance of seeking personalized treatment for mental illnesses.
But I also know some reasons why it may be difficult for teens, especially Mormon teens, to seek treatment.
And the reason I didn't want to seek treatment was because I thought I could fix it by myself if only I was more spiritual.
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When I was 16, I began struggling with depression.
All I wanted to do was sleep, which may seem typical of a teenager, but that's really all I did. I could barely get out of bed for school, and when I would come home, I would just go to my room to "study," which was just a cover for me to sleep without anyone checking to see what I was doing.
I didn't care about anything, including my grades, my friends, my family, or my future—I neglected everything and everyone I cared about.
To top it off, I was angry all the time. I was constantly fighting with my brother or my sisters and tried to push them away. I also struggled to have a civil conversation with my parents and wished they would just leave me alone.
To everyone else, I just seemed like a typical, emotional teenager. No one suspected something might be very wrong with me, including me. I just really wanted to be a normal teenager and I thought admitting something was wrong would somehow make me stand out in a bad way.
So I convinced myself I was just going through a rough patch like everyone else does from time to time and it would be over in a few weeks. If I prayed more earnestly, read my scriptures more, and was a nicer person, I would begin to feel better.
The problem was, I just didn't have the energy or the motivation to do things as well as I thought I should. And so I would start a bitter self-hate spiral every time I failed to measure up to what I thought I should be doing to feel happy.
And this went on for months.
My testimony started to wane, and I felt like all of this was happening because I wasn't spiritual enough or I wasn't a good enough person.
I still remember the moment that I started to realize that what was going on had nothing to do with my spirituality.
I was in my last class of the day sitting in my usual spot, looking at the equation my teacher had written on the board like every other day. Nothing in my demeanor would suggest I was struggling, but my teacher all of the sudden stopped mid-lecture, turned to me (I had never said a word in the class so far), and asked if I was okay.
I have no doubt that my teacher was prompted to ask that question because, at that moment, I felt a very strong prompting break through my cloudy mind that I was not okay and I needed help because this was not going to get better without it.
I nodded, somehow managing to hold back tears, and the teacher went on with the lesson.
It took a while, but eventually I worked up the courage to talk to my parents about how I was feeling. It was really difficult to admit that I couldn't fix this all by myself. But as I received personalized treatment, I began to see what I couldn't before: My depression had absolutely nothing to do with my testimony or strength of conversion to the gospel.
It was a real illness that did not happen because I wasn't a good enough Latter-day Saint. The fact that I could not fully feel the joy or the motivation I once felt from praying, reading the scriptures, and being kind to others was a huge indicator that something was seriously out of my control, not that I was failing as a member of the Church.
As I started to respond well to treatment, I realized that my problem wasn't so unique. I was able to talk with members of my family who also struggled with mental illness and I realized that receiving help doesn't make you broken, it helps heal you.
And while each battle with depression is different, I know that seeking help does not mean you are a failure as a Latter-day Saint or that you are a failing at any other aspect of your life.
It's not a bad thing to seek treatment or ask for help, and you might be surprised at how many people are willing to relate to you instead of judge you when you do.
"This dark night of the mind and spirit is more than mere discouragement," Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminds Church members. "If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation."
Lead image from Getty Images
“Like all great healers of the human soul, Judith Moore seems to have a magic touch. In her book, Between Two Minds, she shows us a faith-based approach for getting back in touch with our true self, voice, and worth — and to enjoy our one life—even through all or our losses and messes.” — Ken Shelton