Ask A Teacher (Parent Edition): My Child Says They Are Depressed. What Can I Do To Help Them?

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First off, thank you for being the kind of parent who is willing to proactively address their child’s mental health. Too often, for varying reasons, parents don’t want to admit their child is mentally unwell: Sometimes this is because they’re afraid of how this will be reflected on them (i.e. “That mother must be awful if their child is depressed”, and before you act like that’s unreasonable, let’s look at every single time a parent is destroyed for a tragic accident that has befallen their child. Even if it’s something that’s as random as the toddler who was killed at Disneyland, people often love to pile on about what they would’ve done and how the parents were definitely at fault, because that’s the last thing grieving parents need); sometimes they’re afraid of what the mental diagnosis is; perhaps they don’t believe in mental illnesses and have the “toxic positivity” mentality; perhaps they don’t know how to handle said situation.

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Regardless, it’s something that can be really difficult for a lot of parents to accept, but the most important thing to do is to accept that your child is coming to you, which means you’re in a position that you can effectively help your child, and that is something amazing.

As someone who personally suffers from clinical depression, I’ve compiled a list of things that other people did that have helped me, that can serve as a guide for you. Some of these things may seem minor, but can dramatically affect a person’s mental and psychological well-being. Please do remember that, unless your child is showing suicidal tendencies, force rarely works well, and if your child is coming to you, able to talk to you about the pain they are suffering, they shouldn’t need to be forced into receiving help. Guide them toward help, but understand that it’s different for everyone, and you need to validate your child’s needs by respecting their wants and needs as best as you can.

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(This is obviously separate for people fearing for someone’s life. If you fear for someone’s life, call emergency services immediately. Don’t fuck around, just do it.)

Here are some important things to remember, and some small things you can do to help your child:

5 Things You Can Do To Help Someone With Depression

5) Remember that someone suffering from depression can’t control their feelings. They cannot just “snap out” of it. Treat depression the way you would a serious physical illness: people that are depressed can’t help it, and they don’t want to feel the way they do.

4) Encourage them to seek help, but don’t force it. While I eventually did seek help, it was a decision I had to make myself. It took a while, but you can’t force someone to speak to a counsellor or a psychologist. That being said, seeing a psychologist was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in regards to my mental health. If your child is initially reluctant, encourage them to record a bullet journal that indicates how they were feeling for that day, so that you both can have a discussion later after a month of “mood-monitoring”. (There are also apps to achieve this.)

3) Listen, understand and empathise. Not everyone has a “reason” for suffering from depression, so sometimes they can’t tell you why they feel the way they do; but that doesn’t make their feelings any less valid.

2) Be there for them. One of the biggest fears of a depressed person is that everyone will abandon them. While no one can expect you to always be there for another person, make sure that the person knows that you care about them. Do not act like depression is a “disease”, and speak openly about your child’s condition the way you would if your child had cancer. Make sure your child knows their mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, and, with the permission of your child, confiding in others can help ease the burden of you both.

1) Don’t judge them. If they need medication or therapy (or both), support them. Don’t judge why they aren’t getting better or put them on a “timeline”. Treating this like a physical illness is the best course of action: you wouldn’t expect someone with a broken leg and arm to be up and walking in a week’s time. Some people need to heal in their own way, in their own time. Please respect that. Your child will need time, help and understanding.

If you feel uncomfortable speaking to friends or family, please contact:

In Emergencies: 000

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14

1800 RESPECT

MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78

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— Sources —

Background

Bachelor of Education: English and History

Diploma in Criminology and Profiling

Diploma in Forensic Science

Background in law and psychology

Teacher 7+ years

Background in special needs, learning support – other specific teaching fields that required hands-on development.

NB: This is a declaration of the background of my personal knowledge, collected over the years via a professional form of education and development. Some of these take the form of actual degrees and others come in the form of necessary professional development. When doing your own research, you should always try and verify the person’s credibility. My credibility, nor anyone else’s, is not with their education. Everyone has biases and no one is infallible. I am deliberately including some of my background education to highlight this, because you should be questioning the information you are receiving.

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6 thoughts on “Ask A Teacher (Parent Edition): My Child Says They Are Depressed. What Can I Do To Help Them?

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