Imagine you are 15 and texting someone you like. Twenty minutes go by without a response. What thoughts come into your mind?
This is a hypothetical scenario in Jacob Towery’s “The Anti-Depressant Book, A Practical Guide for Teens and Young Adults to Overcome Depression and Stay Healthy,” but it is no stretch to assume it is happening right now all over the country. If adolescents are not waiting for a text, they are checking their grades online or browsing social media. Emotional resilience is tested not weekly or daily, but multiple times a minute.
Is it any wonder depression among adolescents is on the rise? Roughly 1 in 11 adolescents has a major depressive episode each year. According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 8.6 percent of youth in grades nine through 12 reported they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months.
In Palo Alto, Calif., where the author, 38, works as a child and adolescent psychiatrist and an adjunct clinical faculty member at Stanford University School of Medicine, young people struggling with depression is not a remote statistic. Two suicide clusters in recent years prompted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigation, and many, including Towery, wondered what they could do to help more young people. Nationwide, a shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists — 8,300 clinicians for the 15 million children and teens who need them — long waiting lists, high costs, and a lingering stigma associated with mental illness make finding care difficult. Towery wrote a book to walk readers through the same concepts he uses with patients in private practice. Recently, he released an audio version to reach those who find reading “torture,” he said.
He hopes teens will follow along in the paperback while they listen to the audiobook. It is a good combination even for those who enjoy reading. Towery offers an honest and accessible narration, and there is something exciting about turning a cellphone into an ally in the fight for mental well-being. Having the Stanford psychiatrist’s book on your phone is akin to having a private, portable therapist in your pocket.
The example of the unreturned text message illustrates the book’s major theme: How we interpret events informs our feelings even more than the events themselves. Consider, for example, how you might feel if these were your thoughts after the described situation: They should have texted me back by now. It’s been 20 minutes! They didn’t even let me know they needed to go! Maybe they’re upset with me. Maybe they don’t like me anymore.
In contrast, Towery writes, consider your feelings if this went through your mind: I wonder what happened to them? In general, things seemed to be going pretty well before this. I bet they had to run to class or work. Or maybe their phone died. That has definitely happened to me. I bet they are just busy right now, and I’ll probably hear from them later. I’ll go do something else, too.
Welcome to cognitive therapy, a big part of Towery’s multi-step strategy for overcoming and fending off depression. The other bulwark is behavioral therapy, which focuses on, as you might expect, behavior….