Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Depression in Children

sad faceAbhyankar Rastogi, 17, qualified grade XI exams in one of the best known schools in Delhi with poor marks. The school decided that he couldn’t study Science any longer and had to move to Commerce or Arts stream, to which Abhyankar, an automobile enthusiast was reluctant to. Moreover, he belonged to the family of toppers. His mother, father and elder sister were all toppers, hence the pressure to perform had compounded on him. Naturally, he slid in depression, stopped eating altogether and would chat for hours on internet when all alone at home to strangers in virtual land, because it was easier to offload your problems to someone whom you didn’t know at all. Fortunately, Rastogis woke up in the nick of time and took their son to clinical psychologist Dr Arti Anand, who diagnosed him of depression. His school was changed and with the help of medicines, change of environment and positive reinforcement Abhyankar gained back his confidence and is doing well in another school in the Science stream and dreams of studying automobile engineering soon, because he is passionate about cars.

Why has depression and suicide rates grown up in children?

“If you see, children have to undergo a lot of pressure—peer, parental, studies and these days add a new dimension to it extra curricular. Naturally, so much stress is too much for young minds, because physically children might look grown up, mentally they are not equipped enough to handle so much of stress,” explains clinical psychologist Dr Arti Anand. Symptoms of stress and depression in children manifests in increased episodes of suicides in children. It’s a shocker that suicide is a leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds.

Watch out

Many a time the child will not come and tell you that he is depressed. But, you got to be careful if you see any/few/all symptoms enlisted below—

• Change in eating and sleeping habits

• Withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities

• Violent actions, rebellious behavior, or running away

• Drug and alcohol use

• Unusual neglect of personal appearance

• Marked personality change

• Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork

• Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue

• Loss of interest in pleasurable activities

• Not tolerating praise or rewards.

A teenager who is planning to commit suicide may also:

• Complain of being a bad person or feeling ‘rotten inside’

• Give verbal hints with statements such as: ‘I won’t be a problem for you much longer’, ‘Nothing matters’, ‘It’s no use’, and ‘I won’t see you again’

• Put his affairs in order, for example, give away favorite possessions, suddenly clean his room, throwing away important belongings.

• Become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression

• Have signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts)

How can you help your child?

Adolescent is a period of intense hormonal upheavals. Hence, parents need to support children to help them sail through this rough patch. “Realistic expectations from the child, mingling with his peer group are the right steps to begin with. Chatting with the child is important because it helps open lines of conversation,” says Dr Jayanti Dutta, clinical psychologist. Once in a while try having a chat-a-thon with your child. Still better, invite your children’s friends too, for a sleep over, cook dinner together and talk about what’s going in their lives. This will allow you to have a view of the world of your child. On an important note, allow your child to do what she likes the most. Recently, Neha Sawant, 11, a bit of reality TV star committed suicide because her parents pulled her out of the dance academy. Refrain from acting arbitrarily and involve the child in decisions. After all, it’s his life. Also, stop comparing your child with anyone else and pick your conflicts carefully. Like don’t fret if your child wishes to grow a goatee or get a tattoo.

Your adolescent was just a kid few years back. Hug him occasionally, (in private) encourage him often and at times ignore his eccentricities. More importantly, if you see the child is not being himself, talk to his teacher, friends and seek help.


Archana Darshan

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