This is a topic that hits close to home with me and many other students in Tooele County. That topic is depression.
Today, my address is to the adults. As a teenager who has struggled with depression, I would like to tell you what you can do to help.
Depression is, as many people have said, not a dirty word. It is OK for your child to be depressed. It isn’t some unspeakable sin. It’s an illness. It doesn’t mean you have failed as a parent. More often than not, it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. That doesn’t mean you did something horrible, or you haven’t raised them right. If you feel the need to make it up to them, get them help.
If your child truly has depression, then they do want help. It may not seem like it, but deep down they are crying out for it. Yes, they may be angry with you at first, but would you rather have an angry, alive teenager than a dead one?
The first thing you can do is listen to them. A lot of the problem lies with adults not believing that kids are truly depressed. They just shrug it off as being a teenager. If a child tells you that they are sad, then listen to them. It may be nothing, but it is better to find out then to ignore it and find out later that they were serious.
The second thing you can do is to pay attention. Make sure your child is eating normally; not too much or too little. Make sure they are sleeping regularly; not all the time or not enough.
Also pay attention to their social interactions. Many children are often ashamed of how they feel and think that they are letting someone down. If they seem more withdrawn than normal, it may be a big warning sign. They may seem more negative or harder on themselves than normal. These can all be warning signs to look for. If your child is self-harming or talking about death, do not ignore those behaviors. These are the red flags of depression that can lead to suicide or other health problems.
Third, get help. Do not wait to think about it. Seek out a therapist immediately. It will give children someone to talk to that is not involved with the situation. It is actually relieving for the child because they feel like they can unload without hurting someone’s feelings. If they continue to get worse, or if they try to commit suicide, the best thing you can do is admit them to a hospital. Yes, they will be angry, but the staff is trained to help them get through this. Sometimes, real life is just too stressful for them to handle at the moment and they just need to be taken out of the situation.
Fourth, be there for them. The worst thing you could do for a child with depression is to be nonsupportive. Yes, it’s OK to be angry or upset. Just be careful how you handle your emotions. It is perfectly OK to express your emotions, but do it in a way that leaves the conversation open.
An example of this would be an “I feel” statement. These sentences are perfect ways to express things without hurting someone. It goes likes this: I feel (give an emotion) when (give a situation). People with depression often feel more responsible for your feelings, and if you don’t handle things carefully, it may cause them to feel worse and blame themselves. Be careful about sharing feelings, but always share them. It doesn’t do any good for you or the child to not talk about how each of you feel. They like knowing that you are being honest with them.
Fifth, do not tell everyone that your child has depression. That is something highly personal. If your child feels like people can know, than it should be the choice of you and your child. It can cause more problems if it gets spread around.
I believe that a lot of the problem with depression and suicide is that we never talk about how to actually deal with it. Just telling someone is not the whole answer. Go over things that your child can do instead of self-harm, addictive or dangerous behaviors or suicide. These are called coping skills.
I think teens would be more capable of handling depression if we taught them skills that they can use. Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about it. One of the best ways to treat depression is to actually sit down and talk with your child about how they have been feeling. It helps them process what is happening and how to handle it.
Depression is a serious thing. It affects millions of people everywhere, from all backgrounds. We do not want more suicides in Tooele County. They can be prevented. All we have to do is take the problem seriously and take action. That is my purpose for writing this article. I want parents and guardians to know exactly what kids would like them to do. By doing so, we can help prevent unfortunate things from happening.
Peatross will be a junior at Tooele High School this fall.