Teenage suicides can leave us all feeling helpless — especially when they happen in epidemic proportions. But for teenagers who suffer from the sort of depression that might make them want to take their own life, there are few books written just for them.
Adolescent psychiatrist Jacob Towery’s new book is an exception. Practical, easy to read, and extremely useful, The Anti-Depressant Book: A Practical Guide For Teens and Young Adults to Overcome Depression and Stay Healthy doesn’t simply offer one technique, but a wide variety suited specifically for the unique needs of teenagers.
Towery starts by advising his readers that overcoming depression will require more than simply reading his book. Teens will need to interact, stay alert, and practice the skills and exercises that the book recommends.
Depression, Towery writes, can be difficult to diagnose for several reasons. It is often masked as anxiety, or is hidden beneath an otherwise happy looking teenager. On the other hand, it can also be misdiagnosed.
To help his readers understand if they are depressed, Towery offers a helpful questionnaire, as well as several case studies of teenagers experiencing either depression or normal bouts of sadness. One important point made is that there can be good reasons that people stay depressed.
Ned, a former patient of Towery’s had become depressed much to the concern of his parents. As a result, his parents went to many lengths to accommodate him; allowing him to attend an alternative school, stay out late with his girlfriend, not be pressured by his teachers, make his own rules, and even avoid difficult tasks.
“If any positive things are happening in Ned’s life as a result of being depressed, all of those things reduce his motivation for getting better because they would disappear if he got healthy,” Towery writes.
Resistance to getting better can be fueled by some very legitimate reasons to hold on to depression. But by doing a cost-benefit analysis, readers can identify the reasons they might be resisting getting better, gain a better sense of how ready they are to get better, and if the benefits of staying depressed do, in fact, outweigh the cons, choose to “own” the decision to remain depressed.
Should readers choose to get better, however, they face another type of resistance.
“Process resistance” occurs when people are resistant to doing the work it takes to get better, in spite of wanting to get better. Getting better, Towery reminds us, does require that readers read the book every day (even when they are busy), do all of the exercises in the book, (even when they don’t feel like doing them), get eight to ten hours of quality sleep every night, remove electronics from their room to reduce distractions, wake up at the same time every day, exercise five to six days a week, meditate every morning, and identify and change negative thoughts.
Towery encourages his readers to ask themselves if they are truly willing to do what it takes to change. And while parents and caregivers often find it difficult to standby while their child suffers, Towery’s advice is the same – beyond taking precautions for safety, the decision and process of getting better has to come from the teenager’s own internal desire for change.
“If you force this process, it will probably backfire,” he writes. What parents can do is seek support for themselves and their own mental health concerns.
For the teen who does want to recover from depression, the first step is to improve sleep. Towery relates the case of Anthony, a former client who returned to his good natured self after being depressed once he began to get between eight and nine hours of sleep. The first step to getting enough sleep, according to Towery, is to adjust the environment.
“In my experience working with hundreds of teenagers and young adults, by far the biggest barriers to sleep are screens,” he writes.
Waking up at the same time every day is also imperative for overcoming depression, as our circadian rhythms rely on a consistent wake schedule. To accomplish this, Towery suggests setting three separate alarm clocks for the same time and positioning them around the room in such a way that they cannot be reached from the bed.
Once sleep is improved, Towery devotes several sections of the book – along with numerous helpful exercises – to overcoming negative thoughts, reducing “should statements” and learning to detect and examine thoughts. Additionally, pointing to the research indicating exercise as a powerful anti-depressant, Towery suggests that his readers exercise at least 30-90 minutes per day 5-6 days per week.
The author also offers several very practical ways to combat depression both immediately and as part of an anti-depression program. In particular, he suggests being of service, meditating, and using downward counterfactual thinking, in other words, thinking about what is going well, and how much worse things could be to increase feelings of gratitude.
As practical as it is informative, Towery’s new book is a goldmine for teenagers – straight-forward, clear-headed and extremely useful.
The Anti-Depressant Book: A Practical Guide For Teens and Young Adults To Overcome Depression And Stay Healthy
Jacob Towery MD
Softcover, 281 Pages