According to Dr Soumitra Pathare, consultant psychologist in Ruby Hall, Pune, there is an increase in the number of reported depression cases and it is mostly amongst the younger generation between the age group of 20- 40 years. “I treated a boy who was ten years old and was depressed,” he says.
Blame it on stress of modern life or parental pressure, the fact is that the youth is succumbing to the pressures from all quarters, going to the extent of even taking their lives.
“Parenting is the main issue. In most of the cases that I have treated, parents have been the cause of the child’s depression. Parents expect their children to fulfil their dreams. It’s a vicarious living of the dream: Since we couldn’t do it, so you do it. So the first step is to sort out the parents.”
Comparing a family with an ecosystem, he says that any disturbance in the ecosystem is likely to affect a child first as he's the most vulnerable in the family.
In some cases, a child may be raising uncomfortable issues in the family which were kept under the carpet for a long time. In one case, remembers Dr Pathare, a girl blamed her father of sexual harassment when she was a child but the mother hushed the matter blaming the daughter’s verbal attacks on her mental illness.
The problem of depression is multifaceted which can be triggered by both internal and external factors. Dr Pathare compares depression with a hairline, almost invisible crack in a cup. A slight force is enough to crush the cup into pieces. Any event can contribute to depression, be it chemical or genetic changes in the body, upbringing of a person, any unpleasant experiance or an external event.
The silver lining is that depression is curable within 6-8 weeks with medication. But how can a parent or teacher know that the child is depressed?
- According to Dr Pathare, the parents must be cautious of the changes in the habits and behaviour of their children. For e.g. the child suddenly becomes withdrawn, remains aloof and doesn’t want to mingle with friends, loss of appetite, frequent bouts of sadness or hostile behaviour.
- Symptoms are many and may even be confused with the regular changes in an adolescent. Remember: when in doubt, take help.
Parents play a pivotal role in shaping a child’s personality. It is with their support that a child can blossom into a wholesome individual. On an ending note, Dr Pathare says that parents must teach their children life skills and the ability to cope with the outside world.
“Talk openly about their problems, don’t run away from them. Develop relations where the child can have emotional support which is a big defensive against depression.”
How can parent’s deal with a depressed child?
- Be your child’s friend and not a disciplinarian always.
- Notice your child’s daily habits. Depression usually shows in everyday diet and way of life
- Make it a point to talk to your children for a few minutes everyday
- Don’t forget to hug and express your emotions and feelings to them
- If you think your child is depressed , visit a psychiatrist or counsellor immediately
- Nourish your relationship with occasional picnics and family trips
- Teach your children life skills and the ability to cope with the outside world