Yesterday , a 24-year-old Arjun Bhardwaj, an engineering student, committed suicide by jumping from the 19th  floor of hotel Taj Lands End in Mumbai. He even posted a macabre “suicide tutorial” on Facebook. Allegedly he was on drugs  and been depressed for some time and had come prepared to  end his life. My heartfelt condolences to the family. This is simply the biggest and most heartbreaking thing that can happen to a parent. I can only imagine the countless hours they will spend wondering what they could have done to stop this.

May be nothing ..yet it is important to note suicide is  second most common cause of  death among 19- 25 year olds!  Indeed it is the most real danger arising from depression.

Reminded me of a favourite book that I reread with my 11 year old.. The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom (a wonderful compelling fable that will make you reconsider your own notions of time, how you spend it and how precious it truly is…but I digress)  One of three pivotal characters, Sarah Lemon is  an awkward intelligent young teen who has suffered greatly in the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. She lives like many in self doubt, seeking affirmation and love. When her first crush ends when he humiliates her, she attempts committing suicide. But in the story she gets to see the other side.. How she  had always thought she was alone,  no one cared.. and that she was wrong.. people who loved or admired her were always there for her. She just failed to notice.  And she realizes that she would devastate her loved ones

Yes depression in teens and pre-teens too is real today.  Feelings of anger and resentment combined with exaggerated guilt lead to impulsive, self-destructive acts. Yet the signs aren’t always obvious. Teens with depression don’t necessarily appear sad.  I looked at the huge smile of  Arjun and wonder how could this wide grin have a heart  straining with unbearable pain.

Irritability, anger, and agitation may be the most prominent symptoms, yet these are exactly what we expect from kids in their adolescence with their raging hormones. So what can we parents do?

Make face time a priority (No, not on the ipad)

Set aside time each day to talk—time when you’re focused totally on your teen (no distractions, no multi-tasking, no phones). The simple act of connecting face to face can play a big role in reducing your teen’s depression. We often read to young kids, But reading to your older kid is a great way to connect. We read books, it could be article , anything that gets you talking and relaxing together. Or playing  chess/ board games.. And yes, resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. Just listen…

 Fight the demon of social isolation  

Redefine “social”. Stop kids from getting too involved in social media and Do what you can to keep your kid connected to others. Encourage them to go out with friends or invite some over. Involve other families, have lunch out or a movie out or any outdoor activity together –anything that give your kid an opportunity to meet and connect with other kids…especially if they are not good at doing this on their own, or have stopped.

Volunteer with your teen

We often have a very selfish goal set for our kids- study well, makes money, become someone. If any of these are problem areas, then they crumble within. Volunteering is a powerful eye opener. Seeing the world around them, learning to count their own blessing and learning they are helping improve someone’s life is a wonderful antidepressant. The love you get from them empowers them with a sense of purpose and can also be a good bonding experience.

Make good health a priority early on

While it is obvious to say eat nutritious, balanced meals, it is important getting that they realise internally that health is to be treasured. They need to consciously make a choice turn down foods that are unhealthy and shun habits like drugs and drinks that will make them hollow within and weaken their minds. We struggle often with this at home.. and I call my hubby a kill joy often  but he makes it a point to underline that a party  cannot mean  a truckload of junk food. They need to understand that it is unhealthy and that the extremely sugary and starchy foods—the quick pick me up of many depressed teens—is not going to make the body or brain happy. Teaching kids to relish  and choose health and fitness rather than emphasising the “party idea” on expensive eat-out sessions will go a long way in building a strong resolve.

I am no expert. Just a concerned mother with a very heavy heart and a pre teen kid going through her share of issues with bullying and  image issues. Please feel free to comment and add on any more ideas you may have.

In case anyone depressed is reading this , please trust me , life is precious. Do not throw it away..There are many kids struggling with debilitating diseases that are snatching them away. You have been blessed. There is a reason you are here. You are just not looking in the right direction. Stop and talk to someone. You will be surprised to see how many hearts beat for you.

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