Youth & Depression
For most children, becoming an adolescent it something which they look forward to. Becoming an adolescent means many life changing events such as going to a new school, meeting new friends, and physical/emotional changes. Some events may occur during adolescence which are not such happy things and which youth need to reach out for help when needed.
A big problem in adolescence which has not changed since I was a kid, is bullying. Today bullying has taken on a whole new meaning and has different titles now. Prior to the internet if you wanted to bully someone, you did it face to face. Over the years school yards have been witness to many brutal beatings to victims from bullies although they are unable to share their story.
Today bullying occurs everywhere. If you are online, you risk becoming a target of bullies. If you have a social media account, your risk increases due to the ease of access for bullies and trolls. The scary thing is that bullying is now not only a childish event but it’s crossed over in adults doing the same behavior and worse yet, they are doing it to youth. Is it any wonder that our youth are having a harder time than we ever did?
Bullying occurs on smart phones, laptops, tablets, computers and offline. At least offline, you can see your bully and stand up to them but when these cowardly people attack online, they do it behind fake accounts and are too afraid to tell you who they really are. It’s amazing how far some people will go to bully people online and then wonder why they suffer depression, attempt suicide or follow through with it. Our youth do not have to suffer in silence and bullies, no matter if they are 8 or 52, are wrong.
In our lives we all have good days and not so good days. Sometimes we are sad when we see problems as insurmountable or take two steps back when we have taken four steps forward. For most people these feelings will pass, but some people have these feelings which don’t seem to go away for long periods of time when we experience severe depression feelings of hopelessness. There is hope. You can do this.
What is Depression and how is it caused?
Unlike Bipolar Disorder, “Depression” is a term used to describe an extended period when a person feels extremely sad to the point of feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless. These feelings are unlike that of just regular sad feelings.
There are many things which can cause a person to have depression including:
*Stress in your social environment
*A loss of a friend, family member or personal item
*Major disappointment such as failing a class
There are times when depression appears out of nowhere. Depression can appear due to a chemical imbalance in someone’s body, and there are people who are born with a predisposition for depression.
The reason we have depression is not as important as what we will do when we feel this way. Depression can affect our lives:
Some youth and their parents, do not realize that depression happens to everyone including children and teenagers. Because people do not see this as a real problem, they may not look at this closely and realize that depression is a problem which we have to take seriously, especially in our youth.
When a youth or child becomes depressed they feel alone and that they can’t talk to anyone about how they are feeling or the problem could become worse. These young people feel as though the entire world hates them. It’s important to ensure them that it is not the case.
Adults have a hard time understanding depression in their young people because we only see the problems though adult eyes and not from where they are seeing it. To us some name calling may seem tame but to a young person who is going through this, it may be a very hard thing to deal with. As adults we think of all our situations we deal with on a day to day basis and wonder why high school is a tough thing for our youth. We have to remember our days as youth to understand and support our youth of today. Parent’s may miss the sign of their young person having problems because they don’t have their eyes open to the world their child is part of. Adults need to realize that it is our job to pay attention and to treat their issues with the same seriousness as what they feel it is for them.
What does Depression look like in Children and Teens:
As in adults with depression, a young person is not likely to talk about what they are going through so you have to pay attention for signs, and then offer help not telling them the problem is not a big deal so get over it.
Your first warning signs:
*Changes in behaviour which may suggest a troubled and unhappy state of mind.
*A child who used to be very active and involved may suddenly become quiet and withdrawn.
*A good student might start getting poor grades and or fail classes.
Some of the common signs of depression can occur when:
*Social or family pressures become too great
It’s important for adults in a youth’s life to not self diagnose as major depression but to have their child see a health care professional for a diagnosis.
If there are unexplained changes in his/her behaviour or if you notice several of the following signs of depression, please see a healthcare professional as soon as possible:
Severe Changes in Feelings:
*Lonely or rejected
Depressed Youth May Experience Physical Changes:
*General aches and pains
*Lack of energy
*Tired all the time
Depressed Youth May Experience Changes in Thinking:
*May have low self-esteem
*May self-dislike or self-blame
*Difficulty concentrating or frequently experience negative thoughts
*Thoughts of suicide
Changes in Behaviour in Youth with Depression:
*Withdrawal from others ie Friends, Family etc.,
*May cry easily
*Show less interest in sports, games or other fun activities that they normally like.
*Sudden outbursts of anger or tears over fairly small things
How Can You Help a Depressed Child:
Talk to them about how they are feeling. If you think they may be experiencing depression, make yourself approachable. Be open to what they have to say and listen to what is bothering them. Don’t give your opinion but just listen. Sometimes that really helps.
If you are concerned your child may fit the severe form of depression, arrange a visit to your health professional and start looking at what depression in youth is and how you can help. Don’t panic. Listen.
Shame of a depression diagnosis is a lot lower than it used to be. We realize that depression is in fact treatable and that includes all of us: Children, Youth and Adults.
Talk to your family doctor to make sure the cause of the behavior is not a physical one for the symptoms of extreme fatigue, pain symptoms and lower moods. A number of medical illness’ can show the same symptoms.
Make an appointment with your child’s school to see if the changed behavior is being noticed there as well. By letting the school know there is a problem with depression, they may have a better understanding and offer more support to the student which then helps to increase their feelings of self-esteem in school
Talk to your school councellor, if you have one, and let them know what is happening. They may be able to get you resources for individual and or group councelling to help the youth deal with their issues in a safe environment.
Depending on severity of the depression, the school councellor or your family doctor may send your child to see a mental health clinic or a psychiatrist/psychologist who specialize in depression in youth and children.
Who Does Depression Affect? Depression Affects the Whole Family:
As parents and care givers we may wonder if the depression our children feel was something that could have been prevented. There are natural feelings of guilt and frustration due to not being able to keep our child safe and sound, even from those who have caused them to spiral down into depression. If caregivers are not careful, their child may see their guilt and frustration and then think it is because of them making them feel worse. Our children pick up very easily on our feelings.
Caregivers should reach out to find out more about depression in their child and to also seek more information from other caregivers who have been in the same position. Just as the child needs help coping with depression, so does the caregiver. There are family therapy sessions available but realize that your child may not speak about what is upsetting them in that environment as they don’t want to disappoint their caregiver. If they choose to speak or not, is not a reflection of the caregiver but that of what the child needs at that time.
Don’t keep depression a secret! Depression is nothing to be ashamed about. In order for family members to understand what is going on, you need to talk about it, not hide it. If the family is aware, they may be approached by the child as an extension of the caregiver, and may talk about what is going on. For instance a sibling of similar age group may better understand the problems of being bullied at school and sadness that goes along with it since they are in the same age range.
Do You Need More Help for Depression?
If you want more information on youth and depression, you can find a ton of information online and off at your local library for instance. Caregivers and other family members may seek answers on this topic and how to better help the child affected by this.
Reach out to your family doctor, professional mental health offices and the support within your community. There are many organizations in communities which offer help for dealing with depression in children.
If you are concerned your child may be suicidal or self-harming, contact your local police emergency, doctor or local hospital for more assistance immediately. Don’t ignore the signs because they make you feel uncomfortable.
You are your child’s best advocate. As caregivers we need to learn to listen and see with our ears and our eyes. We need to learn to speak less and listen more. Depression in children is not your fault and you can help your child get through this and on to a happier path. Thanks for reading my blog.
Kids Help Phone (Canada): http://www.kidshelpphone.ca/ResourcesAroundMe/
Mobile app Kids Help Phone (Canada): http://www.kidshelpphone.ca/teens/phoneus/alwaysthere.aspx