A recent sad incident where my house maid’s niece committed suicide post her HSC result announcement, left me disturbed with numerous questions regarding how alert are we regarding the mental and emotional health of our children.Living with our children day in and out we remain ignorant to the mental challenges and emotional traumas our kids go through. Some of these kids never share their shocking life experiences and go in a state of perpetual depression. Some who do share their traumas with parents are told to handle their challenges on their own and not bother, develop negative and crooked personalities as they grow up.
In some extreme cases children commit suicide as they end up in such despair where they realize that they have no fall back and nobody can help them.
Pediatric depression!!!…what is it?
Its important to pay heed if your child displays:
- A sad or irritable mood for most of the day. Child may say they feel sad or angry or may look more tearful or cranky.
- Low or no participation and lack of enjoyment in activities that used to make your child happy.
- A marked change in weight or eating, either up or down.
- High need of sugar, chocolates and other sweet foods.
- Sleepless nights and lethargic mornings with a desire to sleep thought the day.
- Wanting to remain alone and low or no engagement with family or friends.
- A lack of enthusiasm, physical energy and ignoring simple tasks.
- Making statements which reflect feelings of worthlessness, guilt or low self-esteem.
- Trouble to remain focused or making choices. School performance drops.
- Displays careless and retaliatory behavior.
- Constant aches, pains and general physical indisposition when nothing is really wrong.
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide. ( Secretly writing notes, or messages on social media on thoughts of death and misery or pain)
Above mentioned signs can also occur in children who are not depressed, but parents must display care and alertness, when seen together, nearly every day, they are red flags for depression.
Your immediate steps towards depression management
- Start building trust and confidence with your child so that he trusts you to share his feelings and experiences at home and at school that may be seriously bothering him.
- If you don’t find any reasons for depression then connect to your child’s doctor. Some medical problems can also cause depression. Your child’s doctor may recommend psychotherapy (counseling to help people with emotions and behavior)or medication.
- Get your child screened for mental and emotional health each year starting from ages 11 through 21, with suicide now a leading cause of death among adolescents. Treat any thoughts of suicide as an emergency.
Extend a helping hand
- The basics for good mental health includes a healthy diet, enough sleep, regular exercise, and positive connections with other people at home and at school.
- Limit TV viewing and encourage outdoor physical activity to help build positive and meaningful relations with others.
- Reward good work and help break negative patterns. set aside a one-on-one time with kids, praise for their strengths, and participate in their work or play.
Gently guide them with their safety and security aspects
- Talk with your child about bullying. Being the victim of bullying is a major cause of mental health problems in children.
- Look for grief or loss. Seek help if problems with grief do not get better. If you as a parent are grieving a loss, get help and find additional support for your child. this is very important for divorced parents.
- Schoolwork , home chores and heavy daily study can create a lot of stress among children. Short term changes in the routine breaks the monotony and adds fun to routine.
- Very important to keep weapons, medicines and alcohol in lock.
- Your child is not making the symptoms up.
- What looks like laziness or crankiness can be symptoms of depression.
- Learn and participate in various parenting and child counselling seminars to enhance you understanding in order to deliver quality help.T
Teach you child thinking and coping skills
- Help your child relax with physical and creative activities. Focus on the child’s strengths.
- Talk to and listen to your child with love and support. Help your child learn to describe their feelings.
- Help your child look at problems in a different more positive way.
- Break down problems or tasks into smaller steps so your child can be successful.
In case you are attending to a depressed child make a safety plan
- Follow your child’s treatment plan. Make sure your child attends therapy and takes medicine if any as directed by the doctor.
- All Treatment works, but it may take a few weeks. The depressed child may not recognize changes in mood right away. remain patient.
- Make a list of “first people to call” , in case anything goes wrong.
- Watch carefully risk factors for suicide. These include talking about suicide in person or on the internet, giving away belongings, increased thoughts about death, and substance abuse.
Remember that nobody can help your child the way you can, so be his doctor and see your child grow up as a successful, happy and lively person.