Teen anxiety and depression is on the rise. Pew Research reported that in 2017, 13% of teens have experienced at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. These concerns don’t even factor in the challenges of living in a COVID-19 world with lockdowns and distance learning wreaking havoc among young people. (The CDC reported that during June 2020, 25% of young adults (18-24) contemplated suicide.) We have another pandemic on our hands.
That’s why I’m glad Dr. David Murray has written two companion books to address this, one for teens, Why Am I Feeling Like This? A Teen’s Guide to Freedom from Anxiety and Depression, and one for parents, Why is My Teenager Feeling Like This? A Guide for Helping Teens through Anxiety & Depression. Murray serves as pastor at First Byron CRC in Byron Center, MI, and formerly served as Professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is a counselor and has written several excellent—and practical—books for Christians. These are the latest.
Murray describes anxiety and depression as “two sides of the same coin” (15) and also “one of the most treatable mental or emotional disorders” (18-19). That last fact should encourage parents: your child can see much growth and improvement with proper diagnoses and treatment. Murray understands the spiritual, physical, relational, and mental/cognitive causes of anxiety and depression and understands teens.
The eighteen chapters each tackle a root cause of anxiety/depression and share a biblical and practical way to grow. For “Doomed Dave” who lives under weight of guilt, his solution is believing and applying the gospel. For “Negative Nicole”, the solution is diagnosing the false views of reality that paint everything negatively and replacing it with truth and gratitude. “Friendly Fiona” needs to understand how healthy relationships with God and others will satisfy her longing for acceptance that so often drives her to make bad decisions. At the end of each short chapter in a section called “Turning the Key”, Murray shares exercises for teens and practical advice for parents to coach their children through the exercises.
Full disclosure: I’m not the parent of a teen or an expert on anxiety or depression. (In fact, my wife and I picked up these books as a tool for the ministry my wife started, Maker Girls By Design.) My wife read the book for teens and plans to launch a support group for teens struggling with anxiety in our community with the ministry she started. She noted how the fictional scenarios Murray includes are relatable for teens and makes them want to continue reading to see the solution. An especially helpful feature of the books is the “Turning the Key” portion on the last page of each chapter: an activity, often focused on a passage of Scripture, that helps apply the truth of the passage. My wife plans to use those for her support groups. My wife and I are grateful for these two books that are filled with Scriptural wisdom and practical tools shared in such an accessible manner. As I read through the book for parents, I thought through anxious episodes in my teen years and thought of how much a book like this would have helped me!
I expect parents to find these books a godsend for coaching their kids through anxiety. And it might just help them think through their own anxiety and faith as well.