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Mental Health: An Open Q&A

The issue of mental health for many years has been considered taboo. Depression was classified as sadness, anxiety as nervousness, and so on. Psychologists have until very recently recognized the severity of the illnesses, which subsequently has left them relatively under discussed. For this reason, I’ve chosen to answer a few of your questions on mental illness, concerning everything from helping others and helping yourself.

Q: My friend has social anxiety, and I’m not really sure how to help her without isolating her. What can I do? (13, Georgia)
A: First, it’s great that you’re asking! Helping people with anxiety can often be a difficult task, as there is a fine line between supporting them and smothering them. I’d start with letting her know that you’re open if she needs to talk, whether it be about her illness, or about something far less serious. Beyond that, most of it is fairly situation-based. If she looks uncomfortable in a group, perhaps suggest taking a short break from them. If she seems to be having a bad day, also recognize that on occasion what people need most is space. Leaving her be, while ensuring she knows that you’re there if she needs you, is often the best approach.

Q: How do I know if I have depression? There isn’t a lot of talk about things like this around me, and I don’t really know how to tell. (16, Virginia)
A: Unfortunately, your struggle is one shared by millions of teenagers across America and the world. What’s difficult about depression is it is largely undiagnosable without a physician. For this reason, if you can, I recommend trying to talk to your parents about seeing a doctor. This talk can occur at your yearly checkup or at a separate appointment, but it’s incredibly important that you actively try to seek help first. But, if that option isn’t available to you, I recommend doing some research on the disorder and comparing the general trends to the feelings you’re experiencing. It’s important to recognize that depression varies greatly from person to person, but doing so may provide a general idea as to your diagnosis. However, seeing a physician is the only way to get a legitimate answer.

Q: I’m getting bullied at school, but everytime I tell my parents they overreact and embarrass me. How can I get them to stop? (15, Arizona)
A: Your parents should never, never, be your greatest worry. In situations similar to these, it’s vital that you recognize they are trying to help, and doing so in the best way they know how. But, our parents do not live our lives, and often underestimate the complexities that come with social interactions at our age. I imagine all it will take for your parents to understand the fear they are unintentionally instilling in you is a conversation. Letting them know that you appreciate their intentions, but that they need to adjust their course of action, should help you to resolve the situation.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at, or comment them below this article.

Emily Bach is a regular writer with GirlSpring from Washington, DC.

Please note that this is not professional advice. If you feel you need help, there are resources available that are written by professionals in our tough topics section, and a good place to go to for help is the Crisis Center Teen Link. Text or call 205-328-5465. Text counseling is available from 10 am – 10 pm every single day.

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