Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The "D" Word

Well, it's here again.

I am not talking about myself, although it's nice to get back to writing. It is the "D` word that will be center of `the attention today. She is "Dreaming" you might think? No, unfortunately today's "D" word is DEPRESSION.

This word is dark, lonely, scary and very disturbing. It hunts people all over the world and some of them don't even realize it. It affects old, middle aged and young. And this is a second time in my life that this word is visiting my family. The most precious person in my life, my son, has confirmed my biggest fear. My son is depressed and has been for the last four years.

Where was I? Where were my eyes, ears and my mind? How come I did not see this? How come I did not ask THE question?
I have been beating myself up for sometime now. I am just realizing that it is tough to be a parent and I am extremely grateful to my Mom and Dad! It is difficult to look back and try to find that misstep, that wrong door that you opened, that wrong turn that you took. I blame myself for my son's current condition. I am his Mom after all! I am the only parent he has left! I am suppose to be guiding him, helping him, be there for him! Where was I?

We've been through this before. But not with my son, my son's Dad. He struggled for years without success and eventually his body gave up. This happened almost four years ago. My family learned the hard lesson and my biggest fear was that depression might return.

But what is depression? Here is the definition from Wikipedia: Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical well- being. Most of the people get affected by depression at least once in their lives. The big difference is the severity and length of this illness.

Depression could be caused by a significant event in your life, certain medical condition, could be side effect to some medications or simply by a mental illness. Depression affects teenagers in a different way than it does adults. Teenager's brain is still developing. That's why you have to be very careful with the treatment.  We are not quite there yet, we are still trying to talk things out. But here are few things that I found very helpful:

- Listen to your teenager. I emphasized on that before in my post "Are They Even Listening?". My sunny optimistic personality is not something that my son can handle right now. Although I have a very optimistic response to every negative statement from him, it's better just to hear what he has to say.
- Be supportive and non judgemental. They are suffering already, please do not add more negativity and misery to their lives.
- Be there for them but do not over do it. Tell them that you are there if they need to talk. Most importantly tell them that you love them. But please do not overwhelm them with your attention. They also need quite time to figure things out.
- Offer help and be persistent. Not all depressions are the same. Some are mild and some are quite deep and require serious medical attention. Be persistent on getting a professional help, even if the teenager has a mild case.
- Encourage activities but don't be too pushy. As adults, we know that physical activities are great for fighting depression. Encourage your child to continue with their regular physical activities. But if the going gets tough, back off. Do not push too hard, it can create more problems.
- Mental health vs marks. School is tough, especially in grade 12. There are plenty of worries about marks and future in particular. But if there is no stability in mind, there is no future, Take care of the head first!

That's all I discovered at this time. I'll be happy to share more when I learn it, find it or create it. But there is just one question that I cannot get out of my head. Why are so many kids depressed?

While talking to my Mom, who still lives in Russia, she suggested that there are many teenagers that are depressed. When I was growing up in Russia, I never heard the word depression. I am sure many adults and kids  had the illness but never knew what it was. We had good days and bad days. We just dealt with it all. But these days many young lives are lost. Does that have to do with the world development and mounting pressure on our young generation? Is it because there is so much talk about depression in adolescents and you almost have to have it to fit? Is it our oh so open democratic society that allows our children to be exposed to more than they can handle?

Whatever it is, it's an epidemic and it is very scary! I know that there is not one solution and at times there is no solution but the way to cope. But can we do something to help our future generation?

Please let me know about your thoughts, your experiences and your suggestions. There are many people out there that can use our knowledge and realize that they are not alone.

Take care of yourself and your loved ones!

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