Hi, thanks for the help. Me and my boyfriend have been dating for a while now. Ever since we have been dating I’ve known he has been depressed. He didn’t have a good childhood. He stresses about everything. Usually he dazes out, and it’s hard to get his attention. He tells me he feels empty, and all alone. He tells me that I’m the only one he talks to about it. His parents don’t know how he feels, and either do his friends. I don’t know how to help him. I need a way to get him to stop stressing about everything, to feel happy again. HELP PLEASE!

A. Many teens are frightened to talk to their parents about their mental health problems. Among other things, they worry that their parents will reject them, not be able to handle the news, think badly of them or not be sympathetic to their feelings. When teens eventually tell their parents, they realize that their fears were unfounded. Parents want to help, but too often teens won’t reveal the truth. Secrecy is the fuel that keeps mental problems alive.

Your boyfriend is obviously struggling. There are several ways in which you can help him. Encourage him to talk to his parents. Perhaps you can collect educational information about depression from the Internet and give it to him to read. Psych Central has a great deal of information about depression and the importance of seeking treatment. The National Institute of Mental Health is also a trusted resource.

If your boyfriend does not feel comfortable going to his parents, then perhaps there is an adult with whom he feels more comfortable. Suggest that he speak with that person.

Another idea, that he might be open to, is writing a letter to his parents. Some people feel more comfortable expressing themselves in writing than they do in a face-to-face conversation.

Finally, you should also discuss this matter with your parents. They might have some ideas for how you can convince him to seek help.

It would be a mistake to think that you can treat his depression. Leave that to the professionals. Do your best to support him and continue to encourage him to seek help. That’s the very best you or anyone else can do. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle