Keeping an Eye on Our Children
Depression and suicide aren’t easy things to talk about with our kids but sometimes it’s necessary. Of all the negative life consequences meted out by childhood depression, the most final and tragic outcome is suicide. When it happens, there’s no more possibility for treatment so the importance of addressing it early on is paramount.
These days kids contend with sensationalistic news, the uncertainty of post-covid life, digital bullying, and other pitfalls of social media use, as well as less quality time with parents. Plus children are feeling almost as tense and stressed as adults. When depression is in the mix things can go from bad to worse.
What’s more, now that we can look back at the social effects of Covid reports are coming in that depression and anxiety have increased in adolescents.
The CDC reported suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-34. Even before the pandemic, 40% more teenagers reported feeling sad and hopeless. Meanwhile, depression and suicide have kids in emergency rooms across the country.
Causes for the sharp rise in child depression and suicide are manifold: more social media, less social life, less exercise, troubling news on TV, and a lack of experiential opportunities all contribute. Even parental substance abuse - which exploded during the pandemic - is having an effect. All of these factors together may cause a growing child to have a negative, hopeless view of the world.
And these days, parents are dealing with so much that a line of communication with the kids seems to be suffering.
Symptoms of severe depression
Parents need to be vigilant and pay attention to their children's lives and the changes they may be going through. For example, what are they listening to? What are they talking about with friends? What about their interests and moods?
It’s important to notice changes in sleeping patterns, eating patterns, concentration, friend groups, and preferred activities. They may show decreased energy, motivation, and less ability to finish tasks at school or in their leisure time.
Sometimes the signs aren’t so obvious but there can be small signals to take very seriously like a frank conversation about unhappiness, hopelessness, or something distressing said at the dinner table.
Also, take a look at your children’s past. A history of suicide in the family or exposure to domestic violence can be troubling catalysts for severe mental disorders in the future.
How can I help my children?
Parents must be able to talk, reach out, and communicate. As mentioned before, grownups are busy these days - but communication is required when raising children. Try to create a close confidant relationship. Not only disciplinary (which is sometimes necessary) but also put in some positive quality time with them.
If there have been talk of hopelessness, severe depression, or suicidal ideation - follow up on the conversations that made you concerned. If it really is serious or you fear your concerns are warranted, get professional help.
If a minor is expressing suicidal ideation, a parent has got to make the choice to seek help for them. In these cases, age makes a big difference. A 12-year-old for example may be more likely to do as they are told and start with something like family therapy. With a 16-year-old it’s more difficult sometimes. They may need to be convinced to take it seriously, and often they fare better with a one-on-one therapy style that more suits their needs and preferences.
When the concern is possible suicide, psychiatric consultation is important. Even if medications aren’t necessary for everyone, they make more of a difference than people think in some individual cases. Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors who specialize in mental health. Along with a good counselor, they can make a great healthcare team to guide your child towards positivity and growth.
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Bregman Medical Group has decades of experience helping kids and young adults through a multitude of disorders including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. We offer online psychiatry and therapy right to your device! Simply schedule online at www.bregmanmd.com or call 305-740-3340.