Depression: A guide for parents and carers
Depression is much more common in young people than you may expect - around 1 in 10 will experience depression, stress or anxiety before the age of 18. If your child appears to be suffering, there are things that you can practically do to support your child through challenging times.
Show them that you care
You are on a journey with your child and will be with them every step of the way. Let your child feel that “we” can sort this out and “I” am not alone in this. Have honest discussion and encourage them to tell you what’s on their mind.
Have an open conversation
Talking to your child can make the world of difference. Carefully planning what you want to say, as well as how, when and where, can pave the way for a positive conversation. It’s really important to put your child at ease, ask open questions and be non-judgemental.
Keep family routines as normal as possible
“I just wanted friends and family to treat me normally”. This is familiar feedback from young people experiencing depression. Try to keep family routines as normal as possible, maintaining ordinary everyday activities and planning small events and moments to look forward to and enjoy together. This provides positive distractions for your child. Other siblings and close friends may also need to know what is happening: normalise the situation by accepting it and supporting your child.
Seek our self-help information
Your child may well want privacy during this time. That’s perfectly normal. Linking your child with self-help information and resources they can read and use at their own pace is a step in the right direction. If tensions are high, you can always agree to share this information by a text or email rather than keep trying to talk.
Consider your own mental health needs
Don’t forget about yourself during this time, or overlook the ‘ripple effect’ that depression can have on your wider family. Make time for yourself and consider positive lifestyle changes and routines that you can put in place to benefit everyone.
Look for peer support
Whether your child is at school or college, university or even work, peer support is available. Kooth is an online mental wellbeing community and can be a helpful platform for young people to speak with others experiencing similar feelings. Most universities will have student run groups that offer peer support as well as university counselling, while in the workplace it may be possible to access a confidential support scheme, often called Employee Assistance Programmes.
Speak with your GP
If a number of depression warning signs and symptoms have persisted for over two weeks, it may be time to visit your GP. There is no stigma attached to this and your child will not be “labelled”. Your GP will explore what is happening, why you are worried, and will discuss therapies and treatments with you to improve things.
Gain the full picture
As well as speaking with your child, you may also choose to talk to their teacher, school nurse or another trusted adult. Do this with your child’s knowledge so that they do not feel excluded. You may also ask the teacher or other trusted adult to keep a note of any concerns they have to add to your written records.
Try to remain calm
No matter how anxious the situation may be making you feel, do not let your child see this. The number one priority is your child’s health and wellbeing, so look after yourself, seek support from others, and maintain a calm and loving home environment, helping your child feel safe and protected.
Keep other people in the loop
Don’t suffer in silence. Whatever your child and your family is going through, find someone to talk to - whether that’s a trusted friend or family member, a medical professional or a mental health support service. Talking with another openly and confidentially will ease your burden of worry and help you to see what you can do to make things better. Keeping other people in the loop will also help your child feel supported and on the right track. Talk to your child about who needs to know what and make sure they’re comfortable with this.
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