Pre-empting depression -- advice for parents

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We’re not talking about postpartum depression, and this isn’t just for mums. As long as you’re a parent dealing with the stresses of taking care of your family -- and yourself -- this one’s for you.

Pre-empting depression -- advice for parents

A father leaves a suicide note and goes missing for nearly 24 hours with no means of financial support, identification or communication. On the surface, the incident seemed to be triggered by a fight with his 26-year-old son for not cleaning up his room. As the story unfolds, a deeper problem takes root; the father was in depression after -- amongst other reasons -- being unemployed for 4 months.

The son recounts, “So many thoughts and feelings ran through our heads,... while trying to locate a potentially suicidal missing man, with no form of contact, money or ID on him. He could be anywhere. Or already dead. And we had no idea where to start.”

Were it not for the fact that his son is a local celebrity and a feverish social media campaign was launched to locate his father, this would probably be a story only close friends and family would be aware of. Yet it is a story worthy of reflection for all parents and their children. Depression is a sneaky, disabling affliction, capable of becoming a disruptive force in your life and the people close to you.

Why so serious?

While depression is a much-discussed topic, how it begins is not so well-studied. One such study, outlined 7 symptoms that “could represent early warning signs that an individual could be developing an acute episode of depression”, namely:

  • sadness,
  • loss of enthusiasm for activities,
  • loss of focus and concentration,
  • hopelessness,
  • incessant worrying,
  • low self esteem, and
  • irritability.

Dealing with these signs can help you to battle depression before it gets debilitating. If you think you can barely manage how you’re feeling right now, try out these helpful pointers:

Accept you’re feeling down: Acknowledging you are under any sense of stress is half the battle won. When you accept what is before you as reality and try to understand it for what it is, you are equipping yourself with the ability to handle it just as you would solve any problem you face.

Don’t get mad: Anger and aggression have never solved problems well, nor will it ever be a constructive tool for solutions. Instead, always be mindful of rage as it builds within you, and learn to catch yourself as it happens. Treat others with due respect, More importantly, treat yourself well too.

Don’t blame yourself: The problems and challenges we face every day are rarely the effect of a single cause, and blaming yourself doesn’t help. Focus on finding a solution, whether it be calm discussion or fixing the problem. The most important thing is to deal with what is in front of you, and not dwell on what happened.

One thing at a time: Depression is often caused -- and aggravated-- by an onslaught of major changes in your environment. It can be a career switch, moving house, or having a baby, and it will usually happen all at the same time. With so many things happening in your life at the same time, it’s okay to take a step back and deal with these changes one at a time. And remember that your partner is committed to you in sickness and in health, so make good use of that alliance.

Find help and support you can really trust: Not necessarily psychiatric help, but friends or family members who will gladly give you a shoulder to cry on, or other parents (even your own parents) who may very well have been in your situation. Then just pour it all out; allowing yourself to share your woes enables others to share it with you. That’s how you know you’re not alone in this.

Depression can happen to anybody, and it hits particularly hard for families because it doesn’t just affect one person alone. Our spouses depend on us for their happiness, and our children depend on us to set an example for them. We need to take extra care of our own emotions, attitude and behaviour. Remember, not only are you the pillar of strength for your family, but your family is yours too.

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Written by

Winston Tay

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