Depression and Anxiety
By  Laurie Hunter

Updated Monday, July 17, 2017


Feeling isolation, despair, loneliness, void, emptiness, ugly, not needed, a burden, never good enough, wondering if I were gone would anyone miss me? I want to address these emotions and offer relevant suggestions how we can help someone with depression or having thoughts of suicide, whether it’s your child, a student, friend, or yourself.

Evaluate, Not Judge

The first thing every person can do is stop judging. We must refrain from passing judgments. We do not know what someone has experienced in their life or what they may be currently going through. Even our child, family member, or friend we think we know so well. Even people who look like they have it all – the “successful” student or the “beautiful” girl or boy. Nor should we  judge the “rude bully” who appears to not have feelings, or the “idiot” who does things we think are “stupid.”

We must refrain from judging, because there is a cost. The cost of our judgmental words and actions cause inflictions that result in feelings of ugliness, unworthiness, disgust, and self-loathing. Some respond outwardly and create drama in classrooms, homes, marriages, etc. However, most teens and adults learn to keep their emotions inside and private. Over time, they hold on to memories of comments and actions that accumulate and create insecurity, depression, aggression, and/or anxiety. More negative experiences and words can lead to lower self-esteem. When they have low opinions of themselves, they feel they have little worth. They feel rejected or neglected. Their insecurity, depression, aggression, or anxiety can deepen to a dismal point. This is the cost. Passing judgements cost lives.

You may be thinking, “Hold on, how can I prevent myself from judging the bully or an annoying student, classmate, or coworker who’s so full of himself or herself?” After all, they deserve to be put in their places, don’t they? Shouldn’t I teach them a lesson?

If our intent is to truly teach someone a lesson, then we need to find better ways to communicate our lessons. Why? Because, we don’t know the cost. As teachers, parents, and coaches, it is not our job to judge them. Instead, let’s teach them lessons that inspire, educate, and get them involved. When everyday people reach out, we can turn things around for children, teens, and adults.

Be Strict, Get Upset, but Tell Them You Care

Parents, teachers, and coaches, I’m not saying  that we have to always be nice. No, we can be strict and firm. And when they do something wrong, consequences must be served. But, tell them it’s because you care. Ask them, “If I let you get your way, would I be a good parent/teacher/coach?” Explain, “It would be easier if I didn’t have this rule or consequence. But, I’m standing firm, because I care.”

We don’t always have to be nice to spouses, friends, and family members either. If we don’t like something they did, we don’t have to agree with them and sing “Kumbaya.” We can assess the situation and evaluate what they said or did. And then, we can draw conclusions that help us make healthy decisions. We can be firm about our beliefs, but we do not pass judgments on others. Evaluating, without passing judgments, shows that you care and does not corrode a person’s self-esteem.

Understand How Experiences, Self-Esteem, and Resiliency are Related

We think because spouses and family members are close to us, we can say whatever we feel, and they’ll get over it. If you say whatever you want to your spouse, your marriage will commit suicide. Friendships and family ties can commit suicide too.

By the way, divorces and family feuds are situations that involve our children. They will experience emotional responses, evaluate what happened and what was said. They will draw conclusions, not only about the people involved, but also about themselves, which could affect their self-esteem.


How is it that some people can experience trauma, such as a divorce, and bounce back and keep their self-esteem intact? Before we can answer that question, think back when something traumatic happened to you. What helped you bounce back?

Most likely, someone encouraged you in one of the following ways. Consider how you can do the same for someone else.

1) When a situation occurs, they may need help translating what happened in order to understand it more accurately. For instance, a child may need to hear that their parents’ divorce did not happen because of them. It was about their father and mother.

Or if the situation involved vicious words or actions, we could explain that most likely it was because:

  • The person is in physical or emotional pain.
  • Something bad happened to them or to someone very close to them.
  • They had an expectation and it didn’t happen, so they are disappointed, disillusioned, wounded, or vengeful.

Sometimes, all we may need to say is, “It’s not about you. It’s about them, something they are experiencing.”

2) Maybe we can help with their emotional or physical response by finding ways for them to replace unhealthy responses with healthy ones.

Triggers invoke emotional responses. We have been conditioned to think, say, and do certain things when triggered. When a response is damaging, anyone can learn to re-pattern an emotional or physical response. In order to do that, we can teach others (and ourselves) to halt the unhealthy one and replace it with a healthy one.

Sometimes our children and students may lash out at us “for no reason.” We can help with their response by keeping our own feelings in check.

Many times parents, teachers, and coaches can help a student most by cutting off that unhealthy thing we are about to think, say, or do and replace it with finding one thing that’s positive about our student. An angry parent can think of two positive things about their child. And, if we’re experiencing a negative response towards ourselves, we can replace the unhealthy thought by thinking of three positive things about ourselves. Why three? Because, that’s the amount of time it takes for our brains to refocus and transition ourselves into a positive frame of mind.

If we practice this strategy every time, we can condition our brains to break free from negative thought patterns. Over time, we can re-pattern our emotional and physical responses to become more positive.

3) We could help others evaluate what happened or what was said by guiding them to see the blessing or silver lining of the situation. We can help restore self-esteem by helping them evaluate the big painful hurdles as well as the small ones.

We can assess a situation along with them and point out how a failure gets us one step closer to success in our everyday lives. Here’s an example:

My teenage daughter and I waited until the last minute to shop for her homecoming dress. We went into the first few stores and found absolutely nothing and were stressed out. Internally, I was kicking myself for waiting until the day of the dance. She was dissappointed that nothing looked right. We began to growl at each other when I asked myself, “What could be the lesson or silver lining in this painful experience?” Of course, the lesson was to not wait until the last moment and not let other things come before my daughter. I apologized to her and shared the silver lining. As we left the store, I told her, “Well we are one more store closer to finding the dress.”

4) We can also help them to stop warping reality and drawing false conclusions. All too often, people warp how they view themselves. Some of the most beautiful people think they are fatuglyawkward, etc. Smart people think they are dumb. We must share with them the real definitions of words such as these.

Back to the question: How is it that some people can experience traumas and bounce back and keep their self-esteem intact? Do you see how an act of kindness in one of the four areas above can contribute to maintaining self-esteem and resiliency?

Don’t Assume

As parents, teachers, coaches, or friends, we can’t assume just because someone is funnysuccessful, beautiful, or shy that they are not feeling a void or despair. Or just because someone is frequently rude or full of themselves, it doesn’t mean they are immune from feeling isolation or trauma. How do you know if someone has or is secretly abusing them? Or that someone in their family has been battling cancer or an addiction? Or battling each other, going through a divorce? We do not know what happened to them years ago, yesterday, or today. We must stop assuming. Sometimes there’s more, beyond what we see.

Nor should we assume that it’s normal for teens to withdraw or become rebellious. People with poor self-esteem rely on positive experiences to counteract the negative feelings about themselves. (UT CMHC, 2015)

The following are examples of positive experiences that preserve and restore the self-esteem of teenage children and students.

We can help teens develop a close relationship with an adult, peers, and family in the following ways:

  • Do things together. Spend large chunks of time together. The only way they will open up and start sharing is if we make ourselves available.
  • Spend time doing their hobbies or interests with them.
  • Work together as a family (or class or team) to help them overcome the urge to hurt themselves.
  • Make sure they are not alone. Isolation makes it worse. They need to be involved and in a positive environment, not in isolation. Texting and communicating to friends on a computer do not count.
  • Set up chores or responsibilities. Have them participate with the family (or class or team) and stay involved. They will whine. They may be sarcastic, but know they will benefit. Even if we feel like we’re not making a difference, we will.

Teach teens goal setting:

  • Help them create checklists of responsibilities, goals, consequences, and rewards for altered behaviors.
  • Provide them with immediate rewards for altered behaviors.
  • Involve them in activities (they are interested in) to create ownership and to prevent disenfranchisement.

Develop within teens a sense that they are worthwhile in the following ways:

  • Give them a chance to shine.
  • Give appropriate attention and affection. Oftentimes, we think our teen children no longer need our hugs. In most cases, touch is missing, and they need it.

Speak Genuinely

Sometimes we borrow wording from TV, movies, and other people. In this way we’ve all been handed “scripts” we think we need to follow.

“Analyze what you think, say, and do. Sometimes, isn’t it tempting to say something sarcastic? Do some words just automatically come out? If so, I want you to change your thinking and I challenge you to speak genuinely. Scripts lie. True feelings that are said with humility do not lie. The more we stick to scripts, the less life we will live. When we dump the scripts and abandon verbal and body reflexes, we will speak from the heart, have more genuine conversations, and experience more fulfilling relationships with our children, spouses, family, and friends.”
(Hunter, 2015)

At times teachers and parents must communicate with teens who may be angry, agressive, or withdraw. We tend to avoid them or mirror their behaviors. We follow scripts and say things that are shamefully sarcastic to appear quick-witted and in control. It is easy to lose our patience and almost impossible to feel sorry for them. It can be irresistible to wield our power and teach them a lesson in front of their peers or siblings.

I hope I have helped you understand some of the reasons why they can behave so poorly. Use this insight to help you maintain your composure in the classroom or at home. I can’t express how important it is that you not belittle them. Be firm, be strict, serve consequences, but do not take away their dignity. For if we do, what is the cost?

I beg you to consider tossing the scripts and speak from the heart. Set aside your ego and practice having more genuine conversations. You both may feel uncomfortable at first. Be brief. Don’t belabor points or preach to them. Instead, tell them what they’ve done to hurt your feelings. Tell them you care.

Find the Root Causes and Address Them

A Band-Aid doesn’t last a lifetime and neither does a “Band-Aid fix” for a problem. Providing compliments and positive experiences may not be enough. If that’s the case, we need to study what is causing the insecurity, depression, aggression, and/or anxiety. Many books have been written about these subjects. It would be impossible for me to write everything I would like. Do not hesitate to turn to professionals, books, counselors, tutors, and therapists for help.

Seek the root causes. Some people find it difficult to know where to start. A good way is by filling in the blanks of this statement.

I am _______________ when _______________. I feel worse before/during/after _______________.

What you initially come up with may be very general or superficial. Try filling in the blanks again with more specific information to dig deeper.

When we become more aware of what, where, and when we are suffering, we can take steps to overcome our challenges. Figure out when self-esteem is lowest. Is it due to an academic, behavioral, social, or emotional challenge? When is it worst?

Reading, journaling, and counseling are excellent ways we can increase our awareness. For example, Eckhart Tolle shares in his book, The Power of Now, how people experience depression when they are reliving events of the past. And, those who experience anxiety are worrying excessively about the future. He explains how important it is for us to be present and live in the present. When we find ourselves thinking and worrying about another time, we need to bring our focus back to what’s positive right now.

Enlist help from books, clubs, trainers, apps, events, counselors, tutors, and therapists and address the root sources.

Be Present, Stay Involved

Monitor their behaviors. Look for anything unusual. Have you noticed any trends? For example, many people suffer from depression during the holidays or in the winter (seasonal affective disorder). Most people don’t realize that moods can drop along with the barometric pressure, as well. (Oz, 2011)

When people fall into depression, they are tired and lack the motivation to do things that can counteract depression like exercise, cook healthy foods, get outside, and make plans with friends and family.

  • Keep asking them to do things. Invitations count. Don’t stop inviting them, even if they say no. It will help them feel included and not feel so isolated.
  • Do random acts of kindness like leaving them a note in their lunch, wallet, or doorstep to find later.
  • Make sure they are eating healthy foods, especially “happy” foods. Parents can wash and cut up vegetables and fruits and place them in clear containers at eyelevel in the refrigerator.
  • Monitor their activity and make sure they are getting exercise. Blood circulation helps rid the body of toxins, feeds the cells oxygen, and produces hormones that accomplish numerous biochemical processes.

Write a Letter

If you, yourself, are suffering from depression or anxiety, write yourself a letter on a good day when you’re feeling positive. Your letter can be handwritten or typed in your phone.

When depression hits, you will be convinced you are alone. So make certain to exclaim in your letter that you are not alone.  Write down who needs you in this world. Think about why each person needs you to live and write it. Tell yourself you really do want to live and to not believe the lies you’re thinking. Depression and anxiety are evil liars that skew the truth. Keep your letter with you, to remind you of what is true.


Perhaps one of the greatest things we can do for our emotional well-being is to forgive others. I love this story, because it illustrates the importance of forgiveness.

Monkeys had overpopulated a village near a rain forest. The people cut holes in coconuts and filled them with fruit and nuts. The monkeys put their hands in the coconut to get the yummy fruit and nuts and then the people could easily capture them. The monkeys wanted the fruit and nuts in the coconut so much that they couldn’t let go to climb a tree. Likewise, we must also stop clinging to the fruit and nuts in the coconut. We must LET GO, and forgive, and trust. Sometimes we think if we hold on to our resentment (fruit and nuts) then we will punish the people who’ve hurt us. But the only persons we’re hurting is ourselves. And if that’s not enough, if we keep focusing on what we’ve lost, we’ll lose what’s left and miss out on what’s to become or our future. So trust, have failth, and LIVE.
(Author Unknown, Adapted by Laurie Hunter, 2015)

Is there something you need to forgive yourself for? Sometimes we are so unforgiving of ourselves; we beat ourselves up for things we simply cannot undo or change. We should forgive others. It is the right thing to do. And for the same reason, we need to forgive ourselves, and accept who we are, what we’ve done and not done. Just as we can be caring and loving to someone we love, we must be kind and caring to ourselves when we are not perfect. No one is perfect. No one.

If you have a loved one who is depressed, anxious, or attempted suicide, stop asking, “What if…” Stop thinking, “If only…” Let go. Stop telling yourself that it’s your or someone else’s fault. Forgive. It’s not any one person’s fault. It’s way more complicated than that. You have to know this. Trust. You can get through this. Have faith. From this point forward, do the best you can, move forward, and help others. Don’t miss out, and make the most of what’s left.

Dear reader, everyone has a story and I’ve just shared part of mine with you. Whether you’re reading this for you, your child, a student, spouse, coworkers, teammates, or friends, know that I am rooting for you. 

I’d like to end with the words of Kirsten Sturgill Murphy:

“Life is a marathon. Some spots on the path are easier to run than others. Sometimes our pace is fast and sometimes it is slow. We sweat, we bleed, we limp, we run, we walk, we cry, we press on. And in our life’s marathon there are people lining the course cheering for us, supporting us, and encouraging us to push on and to press forward. Marathons aren’t easy. Life is not easy. But in each there are great blessings along the way as well as the finish line.

So, no matter what mile marker you may be at in your life marathon, remember: “You’ve got this!” “You Rock!” “Keep going!” “You’re doing a great job!”

And, “You’re not alone.”


The information in this article is taken from my books, Cultivating Respect and Cooperation, referenced below. I want everyone to have access to this information, so I am sharing it with you. Please feel free to share this blog article with anyone you think would benefit.
Hunter, L. (2015). Cultivating Respect and Cooperation in the Classroom and at Home: A Step-by-Step Guide for Teachers, Tutors, and Parents. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Murphy, Kirsten. “My Reflective Post” dated 1 November 2015.

Oz, M. Md. (2011). “Under Pressure: Your Body the Weathervane.”, Inc., 2015. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from

UT CMHC, The University of Texas at Austin. (2015). “Self-Esteem.” Retrieved November 3, 2015, from

Tolle, E. (1999). The Power of Now. Novato, CA: New World Library