Helping Teens Cope with Anxiety, Depression & More

It’s not easy to talk to boys about anxiety, depression and mental health.

And yet, in a world in which 1 in 8 kids has an anxiety disorder and 2-3% of children ages 6-12 have serious depression and suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24, not talking about these topics is irresponsible. You wouldn’t skip the sex talk, would you? (If so, click over to this episode right now!)

As adults, it’s our job to equip our children with the skills they need to deal with whatever life sends their way. Our job to help them develop problem-solving and coping skills, and our responsibility to make sure they know the facts about mental health.

Kristi Hugstad, a health educator-turned-author, speaker and grief recovery specialist, learned about mental illness the hard way. Her husband battled depression; in 2012, he died by suicide. Today, Kristi shares her knowledge and message of hope with others.

Her book, Beneath the Surface: A Teen’s Guide to Reaching Out When You or Your Friend Is in Crisis, is designed to help parents, teens and educators dig into tough subjects. The overarching message is that you are not alone;  mental illness is very treatable and manageable with support.

“Depression is an illness, and there is help and there is hope,” Kristi says. “Once you understand that it is an illness just like cancer, just like diabetes, and you need treatment, it takes away some of its power. It’s a little less scary.”

And, she says, “if you had cancer, you wouldn’t just sit and hope it goes away. You would immediately seek treatment and do what you need to do to conquer that disease.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, there are resources for you by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visiting

In this episode, Janet, Jen & Kristi discuss:
  • HOW to start discussing mental health with teens
  • What most people misunderstand about suicide
  • Why so many men & boys are so reluctant to admit problems or reach out for help (Spoiler: they’ve been taught that it’s a sign of weakness — and the opposite of how a male should behave)
  • Age-appropriate conversations about mental health
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • How to respond to a headache or stomachache that you think might be related to anxiety
  • The pros and cons of taking away your son’s phone when he gets in trouble
  • Technology guidelines for mental health
  • How lack of sleep negatively affects mental health
  • Working together in community to support kids’ mental health
  • Talking to your kids about your own mental health struggles
  • Warning signs and risk factors of suicide and depression – & how to respond
  • Supporting our sons when there’s been a suicide in the community
  • Teaching tweens and teens to care for their mental health (Note: Lead by example! Get outside, exercise, get enough sleep)
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

Beneath the Surface: A Teen’s Guide to Reaching Out When You or Your Friend is in Crisis — Kristi’s book

The Grief Girl — Kristi’s website & podcast

What You Need to Know about Boys and Suicide (w Katey McPherson) — ON BOYS episode 46

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