How the church and strong families can help adolescents deal with depression


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EPIDEMIC OF ADOLESCENT DEPRESSION DRAWS UPDATED GUIDELINES

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, NPR recently ran a story with the headline “Only about 50 percent of adolescents with depression get diagnosed before reaching adulthood.” The story goes on to say as many as 2 in 3 depressed teens don’t get the care that could help them.

Dr. Rachel Zuckerbrot, a board certified adolescent psychiatrist and associate professor at Columbia University, along with the American Academy of Pediatricians, has issued updated guidelines that calls for universal screening for depression in teens.

DR. REEDER: Tom, it’s really interesting how this “disciplined and science” of psychology carves out its space pretty profoundly but I do believe they have their finger on an issue and that issue is the rising evidence and the rising incidence of depression.

WHAT DOES CHRISTIANITY SAY ABOUT DEPRESSION?

From a Christian world and life view, I’d like to draw a distinction. I believe that this three-fold view of humanity that you are spiritual, physical, and psychological, that does not stand the scrutiny of Scripture.

The Bible teaches that man is made up of two parts, male and female, are physical and spiritual. Now, they are entwined with each other and the physical affects the spiritual and the spiritual affects the physical so there are some physical causes of what we would call depression: loss of hope, loss of any joy, any happiness, a pessimistic view of life that has eventually led some people, obviously, to the taking of their life. It’s heartbreaking for all of us when we see that and then when we see people in the throes of depression.

PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL DYNAMICS CAN SUFFER ILLNESS

I believe it’s caused physically because we’re fallen human beings, physical dynamics, where the body is not functioning right. There’s certain chemical things that are going on like synapses misfires and all of that that’s taking place can lead to depression and those should be treated medically — very carefully, now, because there have been a number of cases of suicide when people are not properly cared for when they’re medically treated for physical causes of depression.

And then, of course, is the spiritual dynamic. The Psalmist speaks of this a number of times: “My soul, why art thou disquieted? Why are you cast down?” We find it in the very first incident of the Bible where God gives the diagnosis of depression: “Cain, why is your face cast down?” We find it in Nebuchadnezzar, whose arrogance had led him into the field to live with his face down like an animal and there is a spiritual dynamic that can lead to depression. And then, sometimes, obviously, there can be the two at work within each other.

BUT WHY THE UPTICK IN INSTANCES AMONG TEENS?

Now, we want to ask ourselves a question at the moment, though, is why is there such a plethora? Why is there almost an epidemic of this depression? Now you are putting children under a mandate to be screened by people of various levels of competencies in which parental rights can be set aside by the “profession” of psychology and its screening process.

Now, having said that, is there an almost epidemic of depression among the rising generation? And I think the answer is yes. We need to ask ourselves, “What are the causes of it?” Tom, I think it’s very clear, as a pastor, I am running into ministry counseling issues of depression among young people much more than I ever had 20 years ago. I look back at my own childhood and I don’t ever remember anything like this — I’m sure there was to some degree, but nothing like this.

NEW CULTURE WITHOUT GOD, WEAK CHURCHES, AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Why is it? Well, I think we need to take a look at the environment in which our children are being raised. The secularization of our culture, the message of a God-centered life which brings hope in the God and Glory and grace is now diminished and set aside by the pressures of the culture and the cultural elite, the curtailing of the First Amendment, both in terms of freedom of speech and the free practice of religion — so that whole element of the dynamic of hope that comes through a vibrant Christianity is lost.

Secondly, within the church, we have lost our focus upon the Gospel which gives hope that we use to pour forth into the culture and then, when we’ve got hope pouring forth from an institution like the church of Jesus Christ and the people of God, that’s going to make a difference and we ought to be bringing that message. Somehow, we have gotten sidetracked into other messages and causes other than the cause of getting up on the mountain and announcing good news.

A third thing, I think, is social media, where kids, their whole life is determined by how many likes they have and things that people can say through social media without being face to face with an individual.

CHURCHES MUST SPREAD SPIRITUAL HOPE

Do I believe that there are some physical reasons for depression that can be treated? Yes, but I think the vast majority is a spiritual depression that is coming from a society that has vacuumed out of its existence the message of hope in Jesus Christ. It does not want to hear the bad news that we’re sinners. Therefore, it does not want to hear the good news that you can be saved from your sins.

Now, the question is will the church of Jesus Christ tackle this or not and I believe the Bible calls us to keep up our message and step up our game into the world with the message of hope for the sake of young people who need to hear the hope of the Gospel.

DO NOT DEPEND ON GOVERNMENT TO DIAGNOSE AND TREAT

Dare I say one more thing, Tom, about that? If there is an epidemic of depression — and I actually believe there is — I don’t think the answer is to create a cast of individuals that the government forces you to go to to get their approval and then to be given medication upon their decision or not. I do think parents ought to be educated on what do you look out for in terms of depression, but I think what we really need is a vibrant, healthy church of Jesus Christ that is on-mission with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

CHURCHES: SEE THE NEED AND SPREAD THE MESSAGE OF HOPE, ESPECIALLY IN OWN FAMILIES

And, boy, you’re talking about a rich harvest field in a culture that’s in despair because of its secularization. That is a rich harvest field for us to come and say, “Listen, there is no hope there and you see where it’s headed but, over here, let me tell you where there’s hope,” and then for the church of Jesus Christ to redouble its efforts to bring the power of the Gospel to bear upon relationships so that kids see their hope in true friendships and true fellowships that are permeated with the hope of Christ, and that they see their hope that they are ambassadors of Christ that are sent into the world for Christ and they have a glorious mission and a glorious message to take.

There is much reason for hope: you are someone that Jesus Christ has died for, you are someone that the Spirit of God dwells within, you are someone that has a task and a mission and a message that counts for all eternity and what you do matters for all eternity. There is the hope of a vital relationship with God that gives you meaningful relationships and responsibilities in life.

FAMILY LIFE IS KEY — STRONG MARRIAGE AND CHURCHES RAISE UP CHILDREN WITH HOPE

And then for us to disciple families in which, once again, children are raised not in the hopelessness of broken homes, not in the fear that the home is going to break up, not in the violence that is now invading homes and abusiveness, not in the despair of the sexual revolution that destroys bodies and hopes and lives and dreams, but in the hope of Jesus Christ.

And we see that in stronger marriages, we see that in stronger families, we see that in stronger churches that get back to what they’re supposed to be doing, which is evangelizing and discipling and worshiping in the community of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ in which you reach out to people by bringing to them the hope of the Gospel and bringing them into relationships that are meaningful so they get a taste of what it means to be loved in Christ and what it means to be loved by the power of the Gospel of grace.

I think that’s the great hope. The hope is not in the creation of a new cast of professionals. Unlike what the secular culture says, you do have a soul, and unlike what the secular culture says, you do have hope, and that hope is blessed — the blessed hope Christ the Lord of Glory.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

Ledbetter: Alabama’s teachers are standing tall with return to classroom instruction

All of the personality traits, values and life lessons that we carry with us as adults were shaped and instilled in us by the people we encountered in childhood. For many, the strongest influences came from our schoolteachers, who opened new worlds of knowledge and taught us skills that remain with us today.

Consider for a moment the music teacher who taught you to play an instrument, the math teacher who led you to a love of numbers, the history teacher who brought to life the stories of our nation’s past, or the English teacher who inspired you to love great literature.

Teaching is one of the few professions whose impact continues to last for decades after the individual who does the job retires.

As many children across Alabama are preparing to return to school even while the coronavirus pandemic continues, teachers have never been more important or vital or deserving of our deepest appreciation.

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Returning to brick-and-mortar school instruction will, hopefully, restore a sense of normalcy to our children’s lives in these decidedly abnormal times.

A return to the classroom and even resuming the online instruction that some are adopting will also help our students maintain their education progress and continue the important social and emotional development that interaction with their peers and instructors allows.

Our English second language learners will receive the communication skills they need in order to better assimilate, and many low-income students will receive the healthy nourishment from the school lunch program that might be denied them at home.

Given the current circumstances and environment, I recognize that some of our public school employees may have a sense of trepidation about returning to school, and that is certainly understandable. Wearing a face mask to do something as simple as shopping for groceries, paying for gas or walking into a restaurant offers all of us a constant reminder that COVID-19 is a very contagious virus.

But our teachers and educators are setting their concerns aside and answering the call to duty.

I know that Gov. Kay Ivey, State Superintendent Eric Mackey and the staff of the Alabama Department of Education took great care in developing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools,” and local school boards are being equally diligent in creating and implementing their own safety guidelines.

The importance of sanitization will be stressed more than ever before, and billions of dollars made available to Alabama through the federal CARES Act will help ensure that any resources that are needed to reopen schools safely will be readily available.

As the majority leader of the Alabama House, I can also offer assurances that the legislature stands ready to pass legislation or make appropriations that are necessary to ease the return to classroom instruction once we are in session.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an even deeper appreciation of the frontline heroes who have remained on the job and provided the most essential services throughout the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals and health clinics; grocery store and other retail employees; law enforcement officers, emergency workers and firefighters; postal workers; sanitation workers; restaurant personnel; and those in dozens of other professions are among those who continued working even when times were their toughest.

I am proud to say that the teachers, school nurses, administrators and support personnel in Alabama’s schools also rank high upon the list of those who have stood tall, and their already invaluable service to our state is even more important to students and parents in each of our cities, towns and crossroads today.

Helen Keller, one of Alabama’s most inspirational figures, once said, “It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.”

As I close by wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy school year, we would all do well to keep Helen Keller’s words in mind.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) serves as majority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives

4 hours ago

Alabama Ag Commissioner Pate gives update on unsolicited seed packages from China, urges public to stay ‘vigilant’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate gave an update Monday afternoon on the spate of seed packets from China that people across Alabama have received in recent weeks despite never having ordered anything.

Pate said that after the state seed labs had performed tests on the packets they had collected from individuals across Alabama, and none of them proved to be dangerous.

“Right at 50% of them proved be some kind of weed flower … 41% were vegetables, and 9% were herbs … we found no noxious compounds, no dangerous compounds,” said Pate at the event.

However, he warned, “They might send out the first seeds that weren’t treated with anything, have a sense of security come about, and then later send something out that could be harmful.”

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The commissioner further urged members of the public to refrain from planting any unsolicited seeds and continue to report them to the Department.

“At the very least something criminal has gone on here,” stated Pate, referencing laws that prevent seeds from being moved across state lines without being inspected by the relevant agencies.

Pate said his department had collected 252 seed samples as of Monday morning.

A total of 385 individuals in all but 11 of Alabama’s 67 counties have received one of the packets, according to information relayed at the press conference. State workers will be collecting the remaining samples soon.

(AL. Dept. of Ag/Contributed)

“Because we’ve got such a good food and drug lab, because we’ve got such a good seed lab, we knew this was inside of our comfort zone,” Pate said of the decision to conduct the seed tests in-house as opposed to shipping them to the federal government.

Andy Tipton, division director of Food Safety and Ag Compliance, said that 25 states had reported similar seed packets showing up at consumers’ doorsteps. He added that the ADAI was turning over all relevant info to the FBI, who were monitoring the situation.

Pate further told Yellowhammer News that one of the prevailing theories remained that the cause was an internet seller running a scam to artificially inflate their customer numbers and create opportunities for fake reviews.

He ended his press conference saying, “We have no idea the reason for this happening, but it doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant.”

Any Alabamian still receiving one of the packets can report it here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

5 hours ago

Alabama basketball star John Petty returning for senior season

University of Alabama star forward John Petty, Jr. will return for his senior season, the player announced on Monday.

The Huntsville native was a second-team All-SEC honoree this past season, after leading the Southeastern Conference in three-point percentage.

Petty was considering entering the 2020 NBA Draft, however he decided to return for a final season in Tuscaloosa after evaluating his prospects. Another college season could see Petty lock down his chance at being a first-round pick.

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Tide head coach Nate Oats released a statement on Monday afternoon celebrating Petty’s return.

“It’s great to have John back for his senior year,” Oats said. “He is certainly one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country which is extremely important to us with how we play.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal. Let’s get to work!” the coach concluded.

Follow along with the Bama men’s basketball program here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

State of Alabama, University of Alabama System officials unveil GuideSafe app aiming to keep schools virus-free

Key figures from Alabama’s government and university systems joined to announced the new GuideSafe platform that bills itself as the key for students to safely return to college campuses amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The GuideSafe platform will help the state fulfill its promise to test every single college student before they return to campus, and the platform will provide a space for ongoing health monitoring throughout the semester.

The unveiling took place over videoconference, where State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John and other key players detailed the importance of GuideSafe to the upcoming semester.

GuideSafe was developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and tech company MotionMobs. It will be provided to any educational institution in the state that wishes to use it.

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Governor Kay Ivey apportioned some of Alabama’s CARES Act funds for the development of GuideSafe and the universal free testing for college students.

St. John on Monday praised Ivey’s “decisive action to provide funding” for the testing initiative and other campus reopening measures.

(Click for higher resolution version that will open in new tab)

GuideSafe will be accessible via app on smartphones and tablets and via web browser on any computer. Students will be invited to join the platform in the coming weeks.

One of the key features of the GuideSafe app is that it will track the location of students via smartphone and then inform them if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This new app – using Google- and Apple-led technology and created by UAB faculty, staff and MotionMobs for the people of Alabama – is a necessary tool in our effort to return to college campuses safely this fall,” said UAB President Ray Watts.

The app also allows students and faculty to report symptoms as they experience them, and get directed to a nearby testing site if necessary.

“The combination of these tools enables every participating college, university and K-12 school to engage faculty, students and staff regarding on-going monitoring of symptoms, exposure and risks of acquiring COVID-19,” said Sue Feldman, professor and director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB.

A general factsheet on GuideSafe is available here.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

6 hours ago

Trump fires TVA board chair after outsourcing uproar

President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he was removing the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board chairman, Skip Thompson, an Alabamian.

Thompson, a resident of Decatur, is the president and CEO of Corporate Billing, a subsidiary of Birmingham-based National Bank of Commerce. He previously served as the president and CEO of both First American Bank in Decatur and First Commercial Bank in Huntsville, as well as serving on the board of Decatur Utilities.

Trump appointed Thompson to the TVA board in 2018. He was elected chairman of the board last year.

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The president on Monday cited TVA’s plan to outsource information technology jobs overseas as the reason for firing Thompson and one other board member. Trump warned the other board members that they would be next if the outsourcing continued. The president also called on them to replace the organization’s CEO, who Trump said was making far too much money.

The president added, “Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired.’”

The TVA is the electricity provider for much of North Alabama. Self-described as “a corporate agency of the United States,” it is regulated at the federal level and not under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) applauded Trump’s move on Monday.

“TVA fires AMERICANS & hires cheap foreign labor,” the North Alabama congressman tweeted. “TVA executive salaries EXORBITANT. TVA=NO competition, unlike private sector execs who compete to earn profits to earn pay… WAY TO GO [President Trump]!”

RELATED: Doug Jones: ‘The TVA has lost its way’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn