From Canada: A friend who we’ll call JD has recently opened up to me about the seriousness of her depression. She has self harmed and thinks often about suicide, but I don’t think she has actually attempted it yet. I’ve been helping her as much as I can, but since she’s only 15, there isn’t much I can do to help her without her parent’s consent.

She recently talked to her mother about going to therapy, but her mother said that everyone goes through this and she’s not special. They even refuse to take her to the doctor’s despite JD being constantly physically unwell (I think due to her depression and anxiety. They just tell her that she’s fine, and needs to keep working despite this (they’re farmers).

My friendship has helped her become open to the ideas of therapy and even a bit more trusting of other adults, but she doesn’t want to tell them everything because she doesn’t want to be taken away from her parents.

JD is homeschooled, so there isn’t a school counselor she can talk to. We do attend a youth group together, and at least a few of the leaders know (to an extent) about what she’s going through, but JD is still hesitant to talk to them.

I’m not too sure about the legalities of her going to therapy without parental consent, and since she’s out of town, it would be difficult to go without her parents bringing her, which they won’t do.

Her father is emotionally abusive, constantly yelling at his children and swearing at them and calling them useless despite their hard work, but he hasn’t ever hit them as far as I know.

I just want to help my friend, but the biggest road block is her parents. Is there any way we can legally force them to take her to therapy, or any way to make them see that depression is real and that she needs more help that she has? Is there anything our youth leaders can do legally, or is it all up to her parents?

Thanks for the help. I just feel like I’m out of options, and I don’t want to call Child/Family Services or the police unless it’s a emergency. We’ve been making progress, but there’s just been a big roadblock.

A: Your friend is fortunate to have such a good friend as you. But there is a limit to what one teen can do for another. What you can do, and in my opinion should do, is talk more specifically to your youth group leaders about what you know. They are in a much better position to approach her parents. They will also know what they can and can’t do legally.

You need to take care that you are not her only support. I understand that you are worried about her. I understand that you don’t want to abandon her. But the fact is you don’t have the skills or the defenses that are needed to navigate being responsible for another person’s life. Talking to the youth leaders will help you as well as her during this difficult time.

Meanwhile — Please encourage your friend to make use of the online and hotline services that are available. One such hotline is Youthspace Canada. Youthspace.ca is an emotional and crisis support line for youth 30 and under across Canada. Chat is one-to-one with a trained volunteer working with the support of staff members. Go to site where you can chat with a Volunteer / SMS Text Chat 778-783-0177. CHAT HOURS: 6 pm – midnight PST.

In addition, there is a “Teens Lounge” here at PsychCentral where teens can offer support and encouragement to each other. Go to “Find Help” on the homepage. Then click on “Forums”.

I wish you both well.
Dr. Marie