Depression is a topic many of us would like to avoid talking about. We tend to deny that it exists and we don’t like to talk about it, especially if our loved ones have it. Unfortunately, youth suicides are on the rise in Singapore and it is reported that the number of suicides increases by 10% for boys aged 10 to 19.
Since the world is constantly changing, we try our best to protect our loved ones from succumbing to depression. However, the causes of depression are everywhere and it may be too late when you realize your child is badly affected by it.
It is uncertain as to how many children are now experiencing depression because some of them don’t show signs they are experiencing it. Others may feel afraid to talk about it because of what they hear about depression.
What are the reasons for depression?
Depression has so many triggers that can make it hard to determine when it started.
For children, it can be caused by situations where they feel like they are trapped, helpless, hopeless or unable to cope with the changes. It can also be caused by family issues, death of a loved one or constant negative thinking. It also can be that they feel pressured in school and couldn’t cope with all the homework without guidance.
Pressure and guilt can also be reasons for depression. It really varies per child and it is possible that two or more triggers have caused them to feel this way.
Are there obvious signs that a child is depressed?
Sometimes, you won’t really know if someone is depressed unless you ask them. You even won’t find out yourself if you are experiencing depression unless someone asks you about your condition or you take time to review your behaviour. With this in mind, it may be difficult to find out if your child is experiencing depression.
But, there are cues that can clue you in.
Some children will display emotional signs such as prolonged sadness, constant crying, random mood swings, and showing signs of stress. Others may just stay quiet for long periods of time or lash out for no reason at all. When these are often displayed by your child, you need to step in immediately because something is definitely affecting them.
Other children may display behavioural problems if they feel depressed. They may start ignoring others or lose interest in the things they used to be passionate about. They also become distracted even though there’s nothing before them that could distract them from what they are doing. There may also be times they will avoid a certain area such as school or avoid people.
When this happens, you may get an idea what caused them to feel depressed, especially if they are avoiding someone or something. It could be that your child is being bullied at school or overstressed about upcoming exams.
Of course, if they start showing signs they want to inflict self-harm, punishment or commit suicide by talking about it all the time or if they attempt it, it is a big indicator something is wrong. If they do show these signs, you need to be vigilant and act immediately.
What can you do as a parent?
Treating depression is not easy, especially if the cause of it is too deep and painful for your child. Some actions can also be interpreted differently and every child will have a unique response to them.
As a parent, you can provide them with three things: comfort, safety and security.
Depressed children often feel like they are useless and they have to show a brave front all the time. If they fail to do something, it strengthens their belief that people will hate them for their failure.
By giving them comfort, you are telling them that you love them for who they are, faults and all. You also need to show them that you don’t care if they can’t do something and that they don’t have to pretend to be someone else.
You know that your child has the potential to succeed in whatever field they want to do.
Giving your child security and safety entails giving them protection from all those who wish to push your child down. You must also ensure to your child that you will not break their trust when they approach you for advice.
You will also do what you promised, listen with an open mind and be understanding.
If you want to help your child, you also should not compare your children to other kids. Comparing your child with others will cement the idea that you see your child as a “failure” because they are unable to cope, unlike the others.
Finally, you need to be patient with your child.
Every child varies on how they cope with whatever is depressing them. They may take a long time to talk to you and tell you what is bothering them. They also won’t be able to tell you in clear words how to describe what they are feeling and you need to understand that as well.
You need to open your door to let your child know that you can safely talk with them whenever they need it. They must also feel safe when they reach out to you and know that you will listen to them.
Forcing them to talk to you will only drive them away and cause them to succumb to further stress.
How to help a distressed child?
If your child is displaying signs of depression or if you don’t know how to go from here, there are several organizations and groups who can help out. You can reach out to Singapore Children’s Society Tinkle Friends‘ chatbox or phone lines. Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) also has a hotline to help out.
Tinkle Friends Hotline: 1800-2744-788
Tinkle Friends Online Chat Center: www.tinklefriend.com
SOS Hotline: 1800-221-4444
SOS Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also check social media groups and other help sites online to give you an idea on what you can do. You can also seek the help of your family and close friends to find ways on how you can help your little ones.
Depression is very difficult to spot if you don’t know what signs to look for. If you see your child displaying signs of depression, you should give your child space and be patient with them. Please don’t let our future generations suffer in silence. Our children deserve our attention.
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