My wife told me that our neighbor, who is doing her internship in psychology, gave our eleven‑year‑old son some psychological tests which determined that he is depressed, and that he even told her that it would be better if he killed himself. My wife has mental illness in her background, and… I realize that I should do something to improve this condition in my firstborn son.

Dear Friend,

Your son’s comment about killing himself is a very serious danger sign. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he would ever carry out the threat, but you cannot take that chance. Please take your son to see a medical doctor immediately. After speaking with your son, the doctor will know the right actions for you to take next. He may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist. And he may prescribe medication. Please follow up with whatever the doctor recommends.

While we recognize that a small number of children and adults may mention suicide to try and manipulate their circumstances, it is extremely important that the threat is never taken lightly. Before we met our adopted daughter, she attempted suicide by slitting her wrists. She was only ten years old at the time and was living in a foster home. She had lost hope in her biological parents, and she felt like a prisoner of the foster care system. We are not sure if she really wanted to die, or if she was just desperate enough to try anything, but she soon found herself in the psychiatric ward of a children’s hospital. Whether she was serious in her attempt or not, she did get medical help, and the foster care system immediately began to look for an adoptive home for her and her brother.

People of all ages can experience situational depression due to circumstances in their lives. All of us have times of feeling low. But clinical depression is different. It is a serious illness that involves an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Everything may be going well in a person’s life, but if he is clinically depressed, the negative chemicals are in control and life seems hopeless. Caring friends and relatives may make statements such as, “You don’t know how good you have it. When I was your age, we didn’t have all the things you have now. You need to knock it off and be thankful for what you have.” Those words only serve to drive the person into deeper isolation and hopelessness.

In addition to following a medical doctor’s advice, we recommend that you continuously remind your son that you love him and that you are always available for him, whether he wants to talk or play ball. If he has difficulty in school, have frequent communication with his teachers so that he has the support he needs to succeed academically. Find a church where there are children and young people who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and take your family there often. And provide opportunities for your son to participate in activities that he enjoys with positive role models.

Ask God to give you the wisdom you need, and He will answer,

Linda and Charles