Teenage Depression

I wasn’t aware of the fact that children could suffer from depression, let alone think that any one of my children could be the ones that is affected by this.  If I look back at it now, children’s moods were just up and down all the time.  They would be angry if you say no, happy when you say yes and sulk when they don’t get their way.  Maybe I was naïve to think like this, but I did.  After numerous discussions with my eldest daughter and doctor’s visits, she was diagnosed as bipolar and put onto antidepressants.  I was also under the impression that you stay on anti-depressants for about six months in which time it regulates the levels in your brain and everything goes back to the way it should be.

Studies have however shown that one out of every eight adolescents has teen depression.  If one unhappy mood persists for more than two weeks and your teen displays other symptoms of depression, it might time to seek professional help.

It has been an absolute nightmare in my house trying to deal with everyone’s up’s and downs.  My husband suffers with bipolar and often depression, my teenager suffers from bipolar and depression, my son suffers from ADHD and my youngest daughter suffers from Asthma.  Sometimes I think that I am the only normal one in the house.

There are so many factors that could be affecting teenagers to suffer from depression.  They could feel worthless and inadequate because of their grades in school or it may even be caused by their social status with peers, sexual orientation or family life.  Whatever the cause may be if the things that they usually enjoy doing, don’t help at improving their sadness or sense of isolation, there’s a good chance that they might very well be depressed.

Some of the signs that I didn’t really take notice of was the isolation, closing herself in the room and staying in there for long periods at a time.  I was so consumed with my own problems and too tired to get involved in the evenings after work that is slipped past me.

It eventually progressed into excessive sleep and as a result of all the sleeping, she wasn’t really eating much either.  Every time that I would talk to her about the eating habits, she would look at me and say that she is fat.  This was absolutely ridiculous for someone weighing 48kg’s at a length of 1.63.  I would have given anything to still look like that.

She had changed completely and looking back, I still find it difficult to understand where it all began and what the actual cause of it was.  The bubbly girl who got on with everyone, became a girl that now constantly complained about aches and pains, wasn’t concentrating, couldn’t make rational decisions, was completely irresponsible in so many ways, rebellious, grades that were once brilliant had now become less than 20% per subject and she was withdrawing from her entire family.

They say that depression is hereditary.  This must have been another thing that she got from her dad, as I could see a clear line of depression within in his family.  In November 2010, he lost his mother to suicide.

Unfortunately there is no medical test that can detect depression and Health care professionals determine if a teen is depressed by conducting interviews with the teen and the family.  The severity of the depression and the risk of suicide is determined based on the assessment of these interviews and therefore the treatment recommendation are also made based on the data collected from these interviews.

It was here when the doctor also looked for signs of potentially co-existing psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, substance abuse or screen for complex forms of depression such as bipolar or psychosis.  It is so scary having to go through this, as one of the most vulnerable groups for completed suicide is the 18 – 24 age group. 

My daughter’s situation was explained to the school teachers over and over and it just seemed as if though we weren’t getting much support from them at all.  They were constantly judging her and we even had some of the teachers going around and calling her a “pot head”, because of the fact that she was always in her own little world.

As a mother I had felt so helpless and we are currently still struggling to get the situation under control.  The medication that was subscribed to her did indeed make a difference and now I can clearly see the difference when she stops the medication.  She almost appears crazy whilst she is trying to talk to me, grabbing her hair and biting down on her teeth.

Do you ever know that what you are doing is right?  No.  Under these circumstances we have to hope and pray that we are doing the right thing.  Having had to put my daughter on antidepressants (which she is likely to use for the rest of her life) was frightening, because there has been warnings that anti-depressant medication can increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behaviour in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders.

I remember so many instances where I was almost too scared to leave my child alone, even if it was just for a short period of time.  You constantly walk with this nervousness and your stomach turning every time that you have to turn your back on them.  One specific morning driving to work I just burst into tears and said to my husband that we have to do something, anything, because I had an absolute fear that we would one day come across her lifeless body and that it would be too late.

I recall reading one article after the other where there had been children that had committed suicide, even young children that were still in primary school.  Often when we read these articles we think that something like this will never happen to us, but it can.

From one mother to another parent, please look out for your child with regards to depression.  Listen to the way they speak and look at the things that they do.  There are always signs visible, but it remains our choice on whether or not we notice it.  A suicide victim will often before the time tell you that they do not want to live anymore and that they want to kill themselves.  Even if things aren’t said, there will be actions such as writing letters or giving their favourite possessions away.

This is a difficult road for the person feeling depresses as well as the family and friends that surround them and so I have found a couple of techniques that I would really like to try at home with all my children:

  1. When disciplining, replace shame and punishment with positive reinforcement for good behaviour.
  2. Allowing your children to make mistakes, as over protecting or making decisions for them can be perceived as a lack of faith in their abilities and so they will feel less confident.
  3. Giving you child breathing room.
  4. Don’t force your child down the path you wanted to follow. Avoid trying to relive your youth through your teen’s activities and experiences.
  5. Take time out to listen to your children, even if you think they are talking about irrelevant things. To them it might be completely relevant.
  6. Always keep the lines of communication open.

If at any point there is anything that I can do to assist a friend in need, I would gladly do so, because we have to protect our youth.

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