The National Alliance on Mental Illness found that one in 5 Americans are affected by mental health conditions. When you understand some of the misconceptions and how to appropriately communicate with someone who may be down or anxious, they will be less likely to feel the shame and fear that can often come along with struggling in silence.
Depression affects all ages. There are a variety of reasons a kid may be depressed. “A lot comes from stressors from school, expectations from parents or being bullied or cyberbullied,” said Lucy Tovar Murillo, LPC at Columbus Counseling Associates. Depression has other negative ramifications. “It can lead to self-harm behaviors, hopelessness, low self-worth and low self-esteem,” said Murillo. Since your child’s stressors may not be the same as yours it can be hard to understand at times. “Show some empathy for your child and do not just dismiss them on what they are going through because it contributes to the depression more when they are not believed or even disappointing parents,” said Murillo.
Although you may do everything in your power to keep your child happy, he can still become depressed. There is no surefire prevention. “Having an open line of communication is important and noticing changes like your kid isolating himself, not eating or overeating or not doing things they enjoy,” said Murillo. You may want to create a welcoming space in your home where you sit down with your child and talk. That way when hard things arise he will be more willing to share versus dealing with it in his own way.
Socializing matters, but the support of peers does not replace the necessary support of elders. “It is wonderful to have someone you can talk to and be as open and raw as you want but I would encourage kids to have one trusted adult they can go to because kids do not know what to do versus an adult that would have the means to get support,” said Murillo.
The other common issue kids face is anxiety. “They may have irrational fears of something that can be debilitating and make them sick,” said Murillo. A lot of times if a child is depressed, the anxiety will be co-occurring. When you minimize your child or tell him that what he is going through is okay, you are actually deterring him from opening up to you. “Some interventions include calming techniques like visualizing a calm, safe place or having something that will take attention off of the anxiety or fear or doing something productive with their hands,” said Murillo. Mindfulness and grounding techniques can be very helpful.
Professional help is always an option. Anxiety is usually more obvious than depression. You can get an assessment from a counselor to see if your child needs therapy if you have concerns. “I have a biofeedback program that helps train the client how to control breathing so if they are anxious they can control themselves on a biological level,” said Murillo. Calming of the mind even through yoga or meditation are great avenues to take as well. “For adults it is about knowing their limits of stress and pushing through it, being good to yourself and taking time out for yourself,” Murillo shared. Lifestyle choices like a healthy diet and less screen time can make you feel better. While there is no magic wand to cure depression, you can make purposeful choices and create a welcoming area to come together as a family and talk things out.
APT Counseling Services, drambroespass-turner.com
Columbus Counseling Associates, ccacolumbus.com
The Psychology Clinic, thepsychologyclinic.net