I don’t claim to have any medical knowledge around teenage depression. I cannot prescribe medication, diagnose, recommend or say with any degree of absolute certainty that any child is suffering from teenage depression. Having said that I know enough to recognize certain possibilities and behaviours, hear a child asking for help or determine that he/she is not in a good space. A trained professional is then required. I understand enough about the topic to say that teenage depression and adult depression can present themselves quite differently. Adults could present as being lethargic and sad whereas a teenager might present as irritable showing occasional episodes of anger and becoming easily frustrated with situations that usually don’t elicit the response you may have witnessed. Adults are more likely to withdraw from most people around them whereas a teenager might move away from some but will keep relationships open with others. This certainly makes it more difficult to determine what might be going on with your son or daughter.
As parents we can not afford to slough off what we are seeing. At the same time, while we have to be diligent around paying attention to our children, we can’t be running off to the emergency room or the doctors office at the first signs of ‘the blues’. We’ve all had times when we get up or down with life events in general. This does not mean that we are depressed. As parents we need to respond when we see prolonged behaviour that is not characteristic of our kids. The caution for me is always about putting our kids on anti-depressants as a first response. That, in my opinion, can be just as detrimental as not paying any attention at all. Making excuses like ‘oh that’s just a stage he/she is going through’ or ‘I don’t know what’s going on with him/her-maybe it’s puberty-who knows?’ is not very helpful and can be dangerous. Believing it happens to other families but not this one is a fools game.
As adults we often ask ‘what could be so bad-so horrible–that my kid is depressed?’ Unfortunately there are a multitude of reasons why kids become depressed at early stages of their lives. Being bullied seems to be a very popular but unhealthy activity among teens whether that happens on Facebook, any of the other popular sites kids use, physical threats or the whole world of ‘selfies’ is now becoming a problem because of poor decisions made in the heat of the moment and then presented on an I-phone can and often does came back to haunt the picture taker. The embarrassment to themselves or their families-their parents and their brothers or sisters can be devastating. Our kids are being told to grow up more quickly than they are capable of managing. They have adult bodies in a framework that is still working as an adolescent and often ill-prepared to grasp the responsibilities of being an adult.
Here are some of the signs that a parent needs to look for regarding their kids behaviour: sudden changes in sleeping patterns, becoming hostile and irritable quickly over something that usually wouldn’t elicit that kind of response (usually coupled with other outbursts or demonstrations of some kind), sudden deviations of emotions to tears and prolonged crying, withdrawal from friends and family, lack or loss of interest in previous activities that were important to him/her, increased use of alcohol and drugs and a general lack of enthusiasm for life itself. These are some of many pointers we should notice if we are paying attention. I can only say again that teenage suicide is a rapidly developing crisis that can be managed IF we pay more attention to our kids and spend time with them. A great deal of teenage depression comes from feeling disconnected to a family system or that they don’t have a place, they don’t feel they belong and they don’t feel valued. The feeling of hopelessness that arises is one of the most disturbing and difficult emotions that teens have to deal with.
What can we, as parents, do to help and support a child who is diagnosed with teenage depression?
–Pay attention. Our Kids are trying to tell us something important about their lives.
–Get more involved in their lives; encourage them to be more active and be active WITH them.
–Let them know that they are loved and are cared for. Don’t go overboard here but be consistent.
–Talk to them about things that they enjoy talking about or used to enjoy.
–Allow them to talk to you without you lecturing them or judging them in some way. Don’t try some hocus pocus strategy that you read about somewhere. Simply validate their feelings about things they experience and encourage them by telling them they do not have to be alone–you want to help in some way.
I have included an excellent resource-just click on this highlighted text to go to this site. Read it–all of it–make the time because your kid is worth it and it will help you immensely. Becoming more aware could be the difference maker in terms of helping your child survive this illness or not.
Anyways, that’s how I see it–all the best, Jim
If you want to contact me please do so by sending me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org OR through my web site: jimcloughley.com
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