I’ve noticed as I’ve worked through my own depression and anxiety that there isn’t a lot out there to help parents of children that are going through depression. I know in my own struggle with depression I wanted to let my family know what I was going through…but I was just too exhausted from what I was feeling that I couldn’t share appropriately or in a meaningful way.
So it is from my own experience that I share and hope this will give you insight into what your child may be feeling or going through. How do you know if your child is going through a depression? If they are showing these signs http://depressionhurts.ca/en/depression/ for a period of two weeks or more, they are likely dealing with depression.
And the first thing I wanted to share with you, and this may sound a little crazy, but it is to let your child be. Don’t try to console them. Don’t try to dig your way into their lives. And don’t try to get them to see a doctor, therapist or take medication. I know this sounds quite counterintuitive and that’s because it is.
Depression is a serious illness and I am in no way trying to diminish that. But it is up to the individual to hit their rock bottom and ask for help. They may have already asked for help online through FB, twitter or forums. But until they are the ones making the appointments and asking to take medication, they will not follow through with it.
If it is life threatening or you have an emergency you can talk to the following agencies:
· North America – National Suicide Prevention Line 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
· North America – United Way Helpline which can assist you in finding a therapist at 1-800-233-4357
· Australia – Counseling 24/7 at 13 11 14
· New Zealand – Counseling 24/7 at 0800 543 354
· UK – Counseling 0300 123 3393 (M-F 9am to 6pm)
· Other countries see http://togetherweare-strong.tumblr.com/talk
Now when I refer to your child, I’m talking about children ages 13 to 30. As I don’t have personal experience of being younger than 12 with depression. So for children in their tweens and younger, you may have to take a different approach and be much more attentive to what the cues they are giving you.
But until your child comes to terms that this depression is beyond their ability to cope, they will not seek out help.
I know when I was depressed, I wanted to be alone and not have anyone bother me. But I knew that I hit rock bottom when I was at work crying…for no particular reason, I was just balling. For an hour and a half in the morning. Another 45 minutes in the afternoon. And within minutes of leaving the office and started driving home I was crying again. It was then I realized I needed help and drove straight to the doctor, asked for some medication and took the next two weeks off from work.
I have struggled with a high functioning level of depression through my teenage years until the age of 39. But it wasn’t until I broke….that I knew I needed help. Until then, I wanted to be alone and isolated. I didn’t want to see friends. I didn’t want to ride my motorcycle (what I did for enjoyment). I didn’t want to even share with my wife or parents what I was going through. I just kept on pushing on until I could push no further.
As a parent, if you try and break in when your child isn’t ready to take steps to better their situation, you can actually push your child further into isolation. I know when others tried to push me into steps to get help, it just pushed me further into isolation and feeling alone. This is the most painful process of depression as it doesn’t just affect those who have it, but also the family of the person with depression….which guess what?…this only makes them feel worse as they affect those around them.
Take a step back
I encouraged my wife and family to no longer see this as just my problem, but a problem that we shared as a family. What do I mean by that?
When I went to the doctor and got those prescriptions and asked to book in a psychiatrist, I was put on a six month waiting list. I knew that this depression was going to come in between my wife and myself. So up front I told my wife to speak to whoever she needed to in order to get the support she needed. Eventually, we went to a marriage therapist so we could work on our marriage with this third person in the picture….me, my wife and my depression.
What is depression?
Depression is an illness and depending upon the severity of it, it will last a lifetime. It is similar to diabetes, but like diabetes you can manage it. There are solutions where you can find relief. But in order for you as a parent to be there for your child, you need to first be in a healthy place yourself. See a therapist. Talk and work through issues you may have. So when your child is ready to come out and seek help, you will be there for them in a healthy way.
What can you do to help?
You can be a loving support to your child. And here is another crazy idea, don’t ask them “how they are doing” at the end of the day, or first thing in the morning…or anytime during the day! What that question does is reset your child’s mind back in on their depression. I took this question personally and felt the following thoughts, “I’m a loser”. “Can’t this person see this?” “Why am I so misunderstood?” “I’m not even able to say I’m doing well”.
Your child will likely take this question personally, which can create further isolation and withdrawal. Why? Because what they are feeling doesn’t go away. It is with them each and every day until help comes. And help only comes when they ask for it.
You can try once or twice by asking, “is there anything I can do for you?”, or “is there anything that you would like to share?” But if you get silence or a negative response to these questions, let them be until they are prepared and ready to ask for help. Just because they may not be ready, it does not mean that you should not be ready. Talk to a friend or a therapist and let them know what you are thinking and feeling. Be ready so that when your child does come out of their box, you can be there ready and waiting for them!