Do You Know How to Speak to Your Child about Depression?
By Rasheda Adkter
According to the World Health Organization, depression will be the second most prominent disability in the world by 2020. And for young people, this is an increasingly worrying problem. In America, depression is the number one disability for people aged 15-24, and prevents millions from finishing school. And yet mental illness is a taboo subject, rarely mentioned. Isn’t it time we took the stigma out of depression by talking about it? How can you spot depression in your child and help them overcome it?
What Causes Depression?
Like adults, children become depressed for a variety of reasons. The loss of a family member, being bullied at school or online, emotional or physical abuse, the pressure of exams, as well as media-inspired self-loathing. Depression can manifest in different ways, yet it is often difficult to spot. We may not see it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening—and the statistics are sobering: every 30 seconds, someone takes their life because of depression.
We live in a world where if a child breaks his arm, parents run to the emergency unit, but if the child is depressed everyone runs the other way. That’s stigma. It’s as though we can accept any part of our bodies breaking down, but not our brain.
What to Look Out For
It is necessary to understand the symptoms of depression to be able to recognize its existence and whether your child might be suffering in silence. While there are obvious signs to look out for, such as unrelenting sadness, gloominess, social isolation and dramatic changes in sleep patterns, most teenagers will tend to keep their feelings to themselves, either because of shyness or fear of judgement. With younger children, the signs can be different, for example they may be easily upset, be scared to sleep alone, have frequent outbursts or be significantly withdrawn. If you are concerned, observe your child’s behavior for two to three weeks to detect any patterns, and speak to a health professional if any of the changes are alarming.
Talking to Your Child about Depression
Talking to your child is vital to understanding them and their feelings. Being direct and asking them how they feel is one of the best ways to tackle the issue head on. According to the president of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “… the majority of the kids that we miss who have depression and who may go on and be at risk of suicide are kids who were just never asked.”
Devoting time to your child is important at all times but especially when they reach adolescence, since this is the time they experience many changes and are at higher risk of anxiety. Good parenting can vastly decrease the chances of depression. Be open and honest with your child, and offer a supportive ear to their issues or concerns. Doing so will increase your child’s confidence and help them feel comfortable sharing their worries with you.
If your child is being non-communicative, you can talk to teachers and guidance councilors, who should also be on the lookout for possible signs of depression.
Most importantly perhaps is to help your child understand that depression is something that can be overcome. It does not define a person, but is merely part of life. Help them understand that they are not alone, and do not need to go through it alone. The best way to beat depression is by facing it head on, discussing it openly and standing strong together.References