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Refined by fire

A teen shares her mental health struggles and how God gave her the strength to endure.

Going into high school I knew to expect the unexpected, however, nothing could have prepared me for the four years to come.

I discovered that I struggle with change, so being in this completely new environment—unsure of who my friends were and unsure of who I was—led me to develop anxiety early freshman year. I had no idea how to handle it, but thankfully some of my friends pushed me to get the help I needed. Through joining various activities and meeting the right people, I managed my anxiety and was eager for the rest of high school.

Ella Goede
Picture of Ella Goede taken by La Free Film

But come sophomore year, I fell into a deep depression. Those same activities and friends were still bringing me joy, but I was hurting when not with them. I had no motivation for school, so my grades were awful. My relationship with my parents was struggling as a result, and I felt lost. I had no hope that things would get better.

One day in the midst of an anxiety attack, I almost ended my life. I was home alone and ran outside, planning on running into traffic. I called 911; they helped me calm down, and within minutes police officers found me sitting on the side of the road crying. They took me to the police station and called my parents. Even though it was a serious situation, I tried to go back to school and pretend like it did not happen.

The rest of the year and throughout the summer, I was not the best, but I was getting by. Then junior year began. I was in a worse place than previous years. I was restricting my eating or eating too much. I was hurting myself and not telling anyone about how I was feeling. I didn’t want to go on anymore.

After a couple months, my worst fear came true—people found out. I was terrified about how everyone would react, but thankfully I was blessed with a wonderful support system of family and friends who would do anything to help me get better. I began attending intense group therapy programs. After that I continued to see a therapist twice a month for almost a year.

I learned a lot and continue to use those lessons in my day-to-day life. The biggest thing I learned was how important it is to be open about how you’re feeling. We tend to bury our feelings, hoping they’ll go away, but in reality that just makes it worse. Being honest is the first and most crucial step. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to mental health problems because they are real problems that many people deal with.

The problems are not made up and do not have a simple solution. I pray that all teachers, pastors, bosses, parents, and friends understand this and take time to listen to those who are hurting and be a loving, compassionate guide for them.

This past year, I have been blessed with more than I could have ever imagined—including a faith stronger than ever before. In the midst of the worst times of my life, I really struggled to see God. I did not understand what my purpose was or what good could possibly come from these things. Now, I see God working good in my life every day because of them. My struggles made me who I am and allowed me to do amazing things. I have shared my story and have been an example for others of someone who never thought she could make it but did. I can serve as the support for others who are struggling—support that I needed so badly. I can recognize good in every situation and model that for those around me.

I cannot thank my family and friends enough for sticking by me even when it was hard on them. They saw the plans God had for me even when I didn’t think they existed. I will never stop praising God for giving me the strength to endure so that I can be where I am now. This passage wraps it up perfectly: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6,7).

Author: Ella Goede
Volume 110, Number 7
Issue: July 2023

Teen mental health

Phil Huebner, campus pastor at Wisconsin Lutheran High School, shares more about teenage depression:

Ella’s story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s heartbreaking to know the pain she experienced. At the same time, it is heartwarming to see the progress she has made. I will never forget the many tearful moments in my office as we talked through what she was experiencing. Today Ella has a certain calm and peace about her—and a joy for the Lord that oozes out of her. She has been so valuable to our campus as an advocate for helping others. She has shared her story with over one thousand people at a school assembly but also personally taken freshmen to Starbucks to listen to them and help. God’s grace to Ella is now shining through Ella!

Ella Goede and other teens at National Conference on Lutheran Leadership
Ella Goede (holding microphone) and other teens from Wisconsin Lutheran High School talked about life, church, and ministry at the National Conference on Lutheran Leadership this past January. Watch the honest conversation.

Sadly, what Ella experienced is common. Every year (for five years straight) more than 40 percent of students at our high school say that the greatest challenges to their faith are anxiety, sadness, and depression.

There is no one specific cause. Some are overwhelmed by school today—the push for success, the high-pressure tests and AP classes, the intense competition for scholarships and college admission. Some are burdened with schedules more complicated than most adults can handle. Some have crumbling or broken homes. And far too many are caught up in social media and the troubles that brings.

Ella is blessed to have pastors, teachers, and friends who love and encourage her, caring parents who love and support her and got her help, and skilled professional therapists who provided necessary care and treatment. This is not the case with every teen.

My strong encouragement to parents is to listen to your teens. What they are going through is very real and very difficult. Get them the help they need. Please. Work with your pastor(s), school counselors, and professional psychologists when needed. Their professional knowledge in partnership with the spiritual encouragement of a pastor and the loving support of parents is the proper formula for giving teens the care they need. God-willing, such support can lead to a success story like Ella’s.

Do you or your teen need help? Contact Christian Family Solutions,; 800-438-1772.

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This entry is part 3 of 16 in the series lutheran leadership

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