Life is not rosy and everyone has their fair share of ups and downs. While we do expect to encounter unfortunate incidents and experiences in our way a few times in our lifetime, not everyone is equipped to cope with such situations in a mentally healthy way, and when prolonged, might have an adverse impact on their wellbeing. Depression is a mood disorder that involves a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest to the point that it affects our day-to-day functioning. It can last from a mere week or two to several years.
Major life events like the death of a loved one or a series of prolonged stressful instances like peer pressure, parental pressure, academic failure, etc. can be causes of depression. A child or teenager is at as much risk of encountering depression as an adult is, but he/she might not be able to recognize it himself/herself, or might be hesitant to come out with it. Thus, it is of prime importance that parents decipher the slightest signs of depression and take steps to resolve it. Here are some signs to look for in a child with depression: -
- Changes in routine behavior. Example – if your child used to watch a show at four in the evening unfailingly every day, but abruptly stopped doing so and now prefers to lie cooped up in his/her room, a problem might be afoot.
- Changes in appetite. Extreme variations – either decreased appetite leading to weight loss or increased appetite leading to weight gain – can be identifiable symptoms of mental unrest.
- Prolonged instances of high irritability might be a defining indicator – say, your child gets annoyed over small and inconsequential incidents and snaps back when you try to politely discuss the issue with him/her. Repeated angry outbursts are an outlet for internally pent-up anger or stress.
- Ignorance of personal hygiene and physical appearance, which might indicate that their mind is too stressed to think about mundane stuff.
- Insomnia or irregular sleeping habits. An abrupt change in sleeping patterns or duration can be a giant indicator. Sleeping too much or very little can say a lot about their mental health. Its high time we stop ignoring it in the name of tiredness. Tiredness can be there for a few days but sleeping patterns change for time enough to understand its not just lethargy.
- Poor performance or lack of interest in something which they might have previously excelled in. It can be academics, sports, music, dance, painting, craftwork, etc.
While some affected children might be too young to understand what depression is, some older ones might be able to recognize it, but will usually be too hesitant to reveal it to you or ask for help. In fact, in Indian society, mental illnesses are considered taboo and usually “hushed up”. Some orthodox households even resort to spiritual or religious help, which is a big no-no. Visiting a therapist is the perfect option and in some serious cases, the only logical option to commit to, under such situations. Yes, some ignorant uncles and aunts might say an unkind word or two, but if you were to make a choice between your child’s well-being and the views of a few illogical members of society, there’s no question of you not choosing the former.
Stay Tuned, Stay Relevant!