The fight against the darkness included everything from more structure through a job to stints of playtime as a family and medications. School became such a dark cloud that he withdrew and earned a GED instead.
As Tom began to emerge from the depths of depression and to share his story, his father asked if he could include the experience in a book. Tom agreed. Now 32, he has worked with troubled teens and lives near D.C. with his wife. They are parents of a new baby girl.
The Nelsons are also the parents of Rebekah, 28, who lives in Maine with her husband.
After the book "A Relentless Hope" was published in 2007, doors opened for Gary and Patti Nelson to travel throughout the country and reach out to other families struggling with the pain and danger of depression. The workshops are free.
Asked how they pay for these trips, Nelson said, "We work our day jobs and occasionally get a grant."
While depression can be ignited by circumstances, genetics can also play a role, he said. Nelson said he suffered anxiety as a teen and has seen threads of depression in other family members.
Many things can lead to depression and relationships play an important role in fighting back, he said. During the seminars, he tries to help families understand the signs of depression as well as how to help those who are struggling with it.
Every 15 seconds, someone between the ages of 15 and 24 attempts suicide in the United States, he said.
"We lose 100 a week to depression," he said. "For many, like Tom, it steals life from them. The American Pediatric Association says 20 percent of teens suffer from depression."
Among symptoms are anger, eating disorders, self-mutilation, isolation, and drug or alcohol use, he said.
While the message is somber, the seminars and workshops are geared to help find solutions.
"There really is hope and hope for healing," he said. "We need to get folks identified. It doesn't need to control life."
Go to www.SurvivingTeenDepression.com for more information.
At the end of June, Nelson became pastor of Cross Lanes United Methodist, 5320 Frontier Drive. Contemporary service is 8:30 a.m. Sunday followed by traditional service at 10:55 a.m. The church also has Bible studies, youth activities and community outreach programs. The church is located at 5320 Frontier Drive in Cross Lanes. The telephone number is 304-776-3081.
Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlo...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.