There is still a major stigma attached to mental illness, especially depression, which has kept the majority of us unaware of how to deal with it. Often, when we are trying to help, we come up with certain questions and statements that do nothing but harm to the person already fighting a battle with depression.
Here are 10 things parents should stop saying when dealing with a child struggling with depression.
1. It is merely a phase. You will snap out of it.
It might not be merely a phase. Depression is not something a person can just snap out of. If you don't seek proper care, it has the potential to consume your child's life, even to a point that he starts to seem like a different person, totally unrecognisable to you.
2. But we give you everything you need. What do you have to be sad about?
Even kids growing up in completely normal households can have depression. Depression does not discriminate between a happy household and a not-so-happy one.
What does he have to be sad about?
Just pick up this morning's newspaper or go through your Facebook or Twitter feed; you will easily find a hundred things to upset you. It is just that some people are more sensitive to their environment than others.
3. It is entirely our fault.
Parents have this very natural tendency to blame themselves for the problems of their kids. This stems from a natural tendency of human beings to be narcissistic, and also from the genuine concern of a parent.
"First, there is no age for depression. Second, being a parent, at times, you need to talk less and listen more."
What you don't understand is that even when a kid is provided for extremely well, she can get depressed for a variety of reasons or maybe - and I cannot stress this enough - due to no reason at all. The right thing to do is not to make it about yourself and be there for your child.
4. Not all sad kids are clinically depressed.
True, but you cannot make this decision on your own. Being there for your child and giving him a safe, non-judgemental environment to share his problems is the best way to deal with it.
Also, what you need to understand is that sometimes, no matter how patient you are with your child, expert care might still be needed. You don't have to think of it as your failure as a parent if you need to consult a doctor for your child.
5. Be strong and face it.
In the society we live in, we have been programmed from birth to act strong, and often we find ourselves in a position where we start relating expressing our problems to being presumed weak. And it is very difficult to overpower this kind of conditioning. When you ask your child to be strong, it further reinforces this, and might lead to his never opening up to you again.
6. We have bigger problems than you. You don't see us complaining.
Apart from the fact that comparing your problems with someone else's is just plain rude, it does nothing but make the person sharing her problems feel really small. If you say this, chances are, your child will never share anything with you honestly again and you will lose her to silence.
Everyone is unique. What problems are easy for you to deal might not be that easy for someone else. There is no weight to this comparison.
7. This is your excuse for not doing the work.
Yes, it is understandable that adolescents and young adults can be a little difficult to deal with, but if your child is not being able to perform well in school for a long period of time, the rule of thumb should be not to ask your kid why not, but rather to ask yourself - why?
It is always better to ask yourself some simple questions first, before questioning your child.
"What might be bothering him?" is a good way to start.
"[E]ven when a kid is provided for extremely well, she can get depressed for a variety of reasons or maybe due to no reason at all."
8. You are too young to be depressed. People of your age are moody anyway.
First, there is no age for depression. Second, being a parent, at times, you need to talk less and listen more. And if your child is not being the same and is also not talking about it, try to pick up clues from his behaviour.
Rarely does a person with depression speak up on his own. You need to be able to pick up on little subtleties and take it from there. Sometimes, just being at your child's side can be the biggest reassurance in the world for him.
9. Don't tell anyone about it.
By trying to hide it from others you are doing nothing but associating shame with your child's mental illness. This will only make her think less of himself. You don't want to inculcate this feeling in your child. Rather, let her decide whether she wants to tell someone about it or not and support her decision.
Remember, the less we make it a taboo, the more people will speak up and seek help.
10. Only if you stopped feeling sad and simply moved on.
Think of it like this: Can you tell a person with fever to just stop having fever and move on? No, right? Similarly, a person with depression cannot simply stop feeling sad and move on.
Rather than telling your child what to do, you should be focusing on what you can do for him. Asking him this exact question would be a lot better than asking him to cheer up.
Dealing with a person with depression needs tremendous patience and strength. It can be physically as well as emotionally draining. The more you read about it, the more you will understand that people with depression are very sensitive to their environment. If you want to be there for your child or any other person with depression, you have to read as much as you can on this topic to be able to help them well and not unknowingly cause any harm, because the less you know about depression, the more there is a chance that even your most well-intentioned efforts will only backfire.