Category: Self-harm

What Information Should Families Have If Their College-Age Kid is Depressed?

I read with sadness but not surprise this article about suicide on college campuses. A big question the article talks about is when and if parents should be informed if their age 18+ kid  is struggling.

I’ve written before about the rise in anxiety and depression in teens and the general public. The news on the subject continues to be disturbing, with a 33% rise in depression diagnoses between 2013-2016.

I’m so glad that depression is continuing to be identified more quickly, and that more and more people are willing to seek help. But these numbers – and the stories behind these numbers – speak to a pretty terrifying moment for young adults and those who love them.

Anytime I work with a new client, we talk openly and honestly about confidentiality. Lots of us have had the terrible experience of having someone betray our trust and confidence, and I’m committed to keeping therapy a private space. It’s impossible to get the most out of counseling if we’re worried about someone out of the psychotherapy office knowing what we’re talking about.

BUT – I tell everyone – if I start getting worried about a client in an immediate life-or-death kind of way – I will tell that client directly, not going behind their back, and we’ll talk about if my concerns are justified or not. If so – if a client agrees they’re in a scary moment – together we’ll figure out a way to pull in someone from their life who cares about them, and loves them, and desperately wants and needs them alive.

I love being a therapist, and I take the responsibility of it incredibly seriously – both in figuring out when and how to support someone to get more help, if needed, and when to uphold and protect confidentiality if more support isn’t needed.


You’re probably not crazy

Am I crazy?Lately I’ve been reflecting on the magic I’ve found in three words that I’ve been using often in my therapy office. These three words lead clients to visibly relax — to breathe more deeply, sit more comfortably, and move quickly (if temporarily) through layers of worry.

The words are these: You’re not crazy.

Oftentimes, therapists forget to tell our clients they aren’t crazy. We assume that our clients already know this — that they have a sense that what they’re experiencing is solidly in the range of normal human experience. But the truth is that life can be so difficult and paralyzing and isolating that it can be easy to begin to believe that nobody else thinks this way, or feels this way, or is this way.

And yet what neuroscience has been teaching us lately is that even very scary mental health concerns have very real neurobiological underpinnings. There are good, brain-based reasons to explain why kids and adults sometimes feel depressed and anxious. There are clear brain-based reasons that show why people sometimes experience temporary relief in self-harm. There are straightforward, brain-based reasons why trauma survivors often are flooded by memories. It’s important for clients to know that they  are having a very normal (if challenging) response to what’s probably an abnormal, stressful situation. In other words, they’re not crazy.

Of course, there’s a difference between hearing your therapist say something and believing it. But after clients have trusted me with their vulnerabilities and truths, it can be powerfully reassuring for them to know that I still think they’re as sane as the next guy — or me. It’s not a magic pill, but it’s a start.

Is your sanity feeling threatened? Contact Dana to set up a time to talk through what’s been going on with you and figure out a plan to move forward, sanity intact.