Major depression and episodes of depressed moods have been common for decades, often running in families. Although statistics generally focus on adolescents, young children can get depressed as well which may be masked in acting out aggressive behavior.
While it may seem easier to discuss depression now than decades ago, it can still be a taboo topic which adds to the feelings of being alone so prominent for people with the disorder. It is not only taboo for the kids, but also for the parents who feel they will be blamed and judged for having a child or teen with depression. This is partly because the parents blame themselves feeling a great sense of guilt for their child or teen’s suffering.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2014, an estimate of 2.8 million teens aged 12-17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in that year. That number represented 11.4% of that age group.
According to Rawhide.org suicide is the third leading cause of death for the 12-18 year old group. 20% of teens experience depression before adulthood and 10-15% have some symptoms of depression at any one time. Startling is that 80% of such teens don’t receive help for their depression and that female teens are twice as likely to have depression symptoms as male teens of the same age.
A single episode means that the child or teen is depressed for many months unless there is treatment. The taboo and often ignorance about the mental experience often prevents these episodes from being treated.
How Do Parents Know When Their Children are Depressed?
Red flags for parents can be extreme
Ignoring depression because one believes hopefully it will go away as social and academic problems wane and hormonal changes shift is very risky. Left untreated, the depression deepens, kids withdraw from others, may have unusual aggressive behavioral problems, and may turn to unregulated drug use for medicinal help.
Other warning signs:
What Can Parents Do When They Realize Their Child or Teen is Depressed?
The ability for a parent to help their child with depression often depends on the relationship they have built up over the years. If it is hostile, however, it is never too late to change it to one that is more even tempered.
Here are some suggestions:
Once the relationship has opened up, be candid with the child about your concerns (the red flags). Share openly your love and care for them and tell them that you believe they are depressed. This may be very relieving to bring this out in the open so that your child is willing to speak to a specialist in depression.
Now that you have a healthy line of communication, offer to participate in the treatment in whatever way the professional recommends. Your child will see your devotion and this in itself releases some pain.
Help for the Parent
Key to relieving depression is the support the parent gives to the child. This means, however, that the parent needs support as well. It’s very painful to see your child suffering bringing up feelings not only of guilt, but an overwhelming sadness. Sometimes parents also feel angry that they have so much on their plate already that now this plight just adds to the hard work of parenting. However, recognizing these feelings and sharing them with one’s own professional or the child’s therapist releases this pain and offers comfort and understanding.