Q: My teenager suffers from depression and anxiety, are there natural medicine options to help her?
A: While mood changes are normal in adolescence, one in five teens has a diagnosable mental health disorder and as many as one in three suffer from depression. Despite the high frequency, stigma around mental health can impede treatment. You are taking the first step in getting help for your child, and there are many effective options for comprehensive integrative mental health care. First, I recommend establishing with an experienced psychotherapist, and if needed, getting a psychiatric evaluation as well. It is important to evaluate for risk of self-harm and get appropriate treatment quickly. Next, consult with a naturopathic doctor or functional medicine provider proficient in working with integrative mental health. There are myriad nutritional, botanical, homeopathic and lifestyle options that can help support your child. A comprehensive assessment may include testing to identify underlying physical conditions that can worsen mental health diagnoses. A treatment plan can then be individualized based on your child’s needs, and also include basic nutritional supports such as a good fish oil supplement, a multivitamin and vitamin D. You may be advised to modify the diet to avoid food intolerances and cut out ‘bad mood foods’ like sugar and fried foods, enhancing nutritious choices like salmon, nuts, and fresh fruits and vegetables. A helpful resource on ‘good mood foods’ is the book The Diet Cure by Julia Ross.
Research demonstrates that improving resilience supports effective treatment of depression and anxiety in adolescents. Strategies for building resilience include cognitive behavior therapy and lifestyle changes such as exercise and meditation. Working with a good team and supporting your teen at home can give her the most comprehensive care for improving her mental health.
Resources for Adolescent Mental Health:
Resilience Resources for Teens:
LGBT Youth Services: