There is a lot going on in the world today. Even though America is fast paced, when you compare it to what the rest of the world is going through, we seem to have a calmer more sheltered lifestyle.
War in Ukraine, Israel, and Iraq. Ebola in Africa as well as our very own health crisis on the south boarder. All of which are huge and terrifying. More news this week that has spread like wild fire , and yet was not as huge as the circumstances listed above but still a big loss to many. The loss was a man that both young and old have either seen or heard at least once in their lifetime. This person who at dark and dreary times, like the world is experiencing today, could still in the mist of things make people laugh and feel at ease. Many of you probably know who I’m talking about. Robin Williams, who was either the voice or actor of dozens and dozens of movies, and kept us just as easily entertained on tv shows, stand up, and his many interviews. Even though many of us never met the man, we felt we knew the man, and even then we didn’t really know what he was experiencing.
‘Researchers from Oxford University and Bershire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust say that manic thinking helps join together ridiculous ideas that spark humor.” With their findings, they took a look back into time by comparing historical figures that displayed the characteristics of a person suffering from manic depression (bipolar condition). Painters and play writers were some of those that during their time were considered mad. Comparing to present day, a person that can exude a manic personality, also has the ability to be incredibly creative, and create original humor.
So a person is funny and you think, “Wow I really like that guy/gal, we should always have them over!” Then you move on with your life not knowing that that trait, the humor, completely deflected you from truly getting to know the real person. I’m sure you are reading this and wondering how it relates at all to our kids. Please be patient, because I will explain.
Eight percent of children will experience depression, 3.4% of this eight percent are in primary school. Studies have also indicated that 70% of children experiencing it will experience it again within five years. One in Eight teenagers will experience a low. Adults diagnosed also appear to have a similar percentage. The National Institute of Mental Health showed that in 2012 6.9% of adults experienced depression. You may think well that is not a lot, however that represented 16 million adults! That is an incredible amount of families who have been effected by this disease.
What can we do? First we must understand it. Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how you feel, think, behave, and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Persons who suffer from depression may have trouble doing normal day to day activities, and even feel that life is not worth living.
Depression is NOT a weakness, it is also NOT an attitude you can just snap out of. It is NOT a disease that goes away. It is also a disease that should NOT be taken lightly.
Children can suffer from depression and be even more confused than adult as to why they are feeling so sad. Rather than just summing up a child’s personality to grumpy or melancholy, perhaps we should start to teach them how to cope with the feelings that they are experiencing. So their future dealing with it will be brighter.
It is normal for children, especially teens to experience mood swings. However when the depressive state lasts weeks or longer, and then effects the way they function, it is likely that they are experiencing depression.
- Frequent sadness, tearfulness, and/or crying
- Decreased interest in activities or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities.
- Persistent boredom; low energy. The child seems to have an inability to have joy.
- Social isolation, poor communication. Example: A child is given the opportunity to play with friends, and seems to prefer to be alone.
- Low self-esteem and guilt. The child feels they’re not good or not worth very much. When the child is asked, ‘Are you important to somebody?’ Depressed kids often say no.
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
- Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
- Difficulty with relationships
- Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches.
- Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school.
- Poor concentration
- A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
- Talk of or efforts to run away from home
- Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior
As a parent, you can recognize when something is bothering your little one, and they aren’t quite able to shake the feeling off. If you suspect that your child is suffering from depression and your efforts haven’t changed their behavior, your next step is to call in some help. Rather than being quick to medicate, you must first know what the kind of depression is that they are suffering from. Yes there are different kinds! To find out the diagnosis, you must visit your pediatrician who will either refer you to or you may choose to immediately visit a psychiatrist or psychologist.
What NOT to do
- Don’t just think that it is a phase they will grow out of.
- Don’t tell them to ‘grow up’, ‘man up’, or ‘stop being a baby.’
- Don’t call them names or try to make them feel bad or guilty for what they are feeling.
- Don’t compare them to others or point out their faults.
- Beware of extreme parenting advice, that would compare them to bad kids, and sum up their actions to being lazy, disobedient, or losers.
- Also be aware that there are those that think depression is a made up clinical definition of a person that is trying to defy all the happy people in the world. Unfortunately, I came across this while researching the topic.
What to do (provided by healthy children.org)
- Start a conversation. “You’re feeling sad, you’re feeling depressed, what can we do about the problem? What would you find helpful?” This helps you to start the conversation and lets your child know that you are there to listen.
- Seek supportive counseling: Treatment takes time and the patient is often the last person to see that it’s working.
- Reduce stress: Look at what all your child is involved in. Is there something that can be taken out of their day or that they really want to not be involved in anymore. It could be that those activities are adding to the problem. Example: Extra curricular activities, or social media.
- Educate your family about what depression is.
- Using positive metaphors “Little steps uphill, big steps down hill.” “Long journeys start with a single step,” or “The glass is half full, not half empty,” “Take it one step at a time.”
- Help them relax. This can be relaxation techniques or visualization. Where the child practices breathing and imagining that they are in a calm pleasant place. You may already know what your child finds relaxing. It may be exercise or a sport that they love that helps them unwind, or a hobby like writing, reading, or crafting.
- Develop problem solving skills: Help them identify small steps that can be made to overcome a situation.
- Suggest that your child write down down a list of difficulties and prioritize them, and concentrate on the small ones first.
- Rehearse behavior and social skills: If they are experience a low mood triggered from a certain situation or person. Discuss, develop, and practice the ways he/she can avoid or react to the situation or person.
- Encourage your child to practice doing things and thinking in a way that improves their mood.
- Emergency list: Create a list of telephone numbers that he/she can call upon when hitting a low or having a moment where they are in distress.
- Remove weapons and potentially lethal products from your home.
- Watch for risk factors for suicide, such as increased agitation, stressors, loss of rational thinking, and an expressed wished to die.
- Locate numbers for suicide or depression hotlines, on-call telephone numbers for your physician, or contact information for the area mental health crisis response team.
Crisis Line Human Response Network: 360-748-6601 or 1-800-244-7414
Lewis County Crisis Line, Cascade Mental Health Care 360-748-6696
As you can see there is a lot that you can do. It looks like a lot more work than what NOT to do. However that is what parenting is all about… A LOT of work! Please be mindful of this disease, listen and help when you see the need. Even if it isn’t your own child. Lets help to avoid the loss of any of our future greats! With heavy heart hug your little ones and be patient. We give our deepest condolences to all that have lost loved ones to this terrible disease.
Resources: Healthychildren.org, Kidshealth.org, University of Oxford, and National Institute of Mental Health.