This is not an upbeat, make you happy post for it is about the teens that give up the fight. Depression kills not all, but too many. Fred was one.
He was probably the brightest kid to live with us as a foster child. Tall for his age, handsome, black, half French and half American, with parents who could give him everything, but had finally given up on him. Once he came to live with us, I quickly figured out why, not that I approved. You don’t give up on your kids. Maybe you can’t live with them, but you keep on loving them, you stay in touch, you call, you write letters, you give small gifts of love, you hold out hope for a time when life will get better. That said, I understood and living with a child who is mentally ill is never easy, and wears out a good many parents .
Fred was not an easy boy to like. He was arrogant and quarrelsome. He thrived on engaging you in conversations designed to prove how smart he was and how dumb you were — a master of what I call the Gotcha Wars. But I was used to kids like that. Moreover, because he was so bright, it was often almost fun to argue with him. Almost, for Fred also oozed sadness that made it difficult being with him.
I have met less than a dozen people whose depression spread out from them like a black plague injecting itself into my body and soul. I have known three of those people on a long-term basis, two I am still in touch. These soldier on through ever-present depression with great courage. Fred did not. In his mid twenties he hung himself.
PARENT ADVICE about depression
Here is a quick list of the factors that increase the burden on depressed kids and as in Fred’s case can lead to death either in their teens or later.
- Total abandonment by parents
- Brain based and genetically pre-disposition to depression
- Other brain based mental disorders – ask anyone who is treating a child of yours about co-occuring mental health conditions.
- Social isolation, difficulty getting along with peers, rejected by peers, bullied or bullying
- Acting out. Acting out in various forms eases depression. Many suicides in prison occur because acting out is prevented and the depression takes over.
- Drinking, drugging, and other addictive behaviors
- Unrealistic expectations combined with failed treatment efforts.
Fred had been abandoned by his parents, his father also suffered from depression; Fred would eventually be diagnosed with a personality disorder, he was argumentative, his peers rejected him, he got into drinking, he expected his brightness to ultimately lead to happiness and success, it didn’t.
Tip one: The more risk factors, the more a parent should worry.
Tip two: Competent psychiatric care is not enough. Family support, addiction treatment, finding friends and a satisfying life path must be part of the mix.
Tip three: Parents need what I call and added care team. The professionals treating your child are part of that team. But every parent needs someone there for them, someone who they can turn to. Often support groups provide such a person.
Tip four: More information for parents coping with a moody or depressed teen can be found in my book ‘When Good Kids Get Depressed‘, which is volume 11 of the When Good Kids Do Bad Things series. Volume 1 is free.
Parenting is hard work and contending with a child who is depressed demands more than good parenting. Hopefully, the above tips and resources will help you and your child survive this hard time.
IF YOU LIKED THIS POST
I have published fourteen books on parenting. ‘When Good Kids Do Bad Things. A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers‘ is available in print and as an e-book. Shorter ebooks can also be downloaded on specific topics, like lying, crime, running away, clothing wars and many other topics. Or you can learn how to run a successful family meeting or help your child with test anxiety. Meanwhile, don’t forget to take care of yourself with ‘Parents Are People Too – An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents‘ or by reading my Emotional Fitness Training blog where you will find free posters, daily exercises and more.
Also, if you think this information will help another, please share it. Sharing knowledge is a caring act.
DISCLAIMER ONE: Although I am a therapist and base my advice on my clinical knowledge and experience, it does not substitute for face-to-face professional help.
DISCLAIMER TWO: FORGIVE MY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS FOR I HAVE DYSGRAPHIA. If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. Dysgraphia is a not well-known learning disability and means that sometimes my sentence structure is not that easy to follow or I make other errors. Still, most people understand me. All of my books are professionally edited, but not all of my blog posts are. If this troubles you, feel free to read elsewhere. If you persevere, you are practicing kindness by lifting my spirits for that means you find what I say helpful and that is one of my missions. Kindness always repays those who spread it.