For Teenagers with Depression

Image: Psyche Opening the Golden Box by John William Waterhouse

Psyche Opening the Golden Box by John William Waterhouse

Note: If you’re a parent or educator interested in information about children and depression, my Depression in Children page might be more helpful.

Introduction

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Of course, it was over thirty years ago, but I still remember with painful clarity what it was like to be a teenager with depression. The sadness, the feeling of helplessness, the belief that it was part of my personality and the conviction that something was wrong. I just didn’t know what it was. At that time, in the late ’70s, no one really did. The medical community didn’t believe children, including teenagers, could suffer from depression. Fortunately, now things are different, to some extent. There still is a lot of misunderstanding about what clinical depression is, so many teens don’t get help, either because they don’t realize they have depression, or because it’s hard for them to get help. Continue reading

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A Tale of Two Afterschool Programs, Part 1

When my son started elementary school a couple of years ago, I was delighted to find that there was day care on the school grounds. He was in morning kindergarten, so he went there after school at 11 AM. I wasn’t crazy about how small the day care room was, but I was told that they used the playscape outside extensively. The big draw was that Lawrence was right there on school grounds, and would be picked up at the door to his classroom.

In retrospect, I realize that we weren’t given any information about how discipline was handled, which I now know to be a red flag.

Read on

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10 Things You Can Do This Month to Manage Your Depression

Depression treatment can make a big difference, but it has to be managed. Many people with depression lack the motivation to pull together an effective treatment program, so if you feel like you’ve been thrashing around and getting nowhere, these suggestions might help you get on the right track.

1. Assess your level of satisfaction with your doctor. Your doctor is a crucial element of successful treatment. Are you happy with yours? If you haven’t made progress, is it because your doctor doesn’t seem really engaged in your treatment? If you have a doctor who doesn’t listen to you, respect your right to ask questions and doesn’t seem to really care whether your depression is successfully treated, then it’s time to move on.

2. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time for your next doctor visit. This is a good idea anytime you go to visit a doctor, but especially with depression, given how fuzzy it can make your thought processes. Continue reading

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A Tale of Two Afterschool Programs, Part 2

As I recounted in Part I of this series, I came to the conclusion last fall that the after school program my son was attending was not suitable for him, and probably not for any child who was imperfect in any way. It certainly was not suitable for a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Lawrence was not happy there, and I was concerned about what the impact of the constant reprimands and punishments would be. I felt that if Lawrence was always seen as the bad kid he might eventually decide that it wasn’t worth even trying to behave.

In addition, the lack of a clear disciplinary process and escalation of issues seemed very unprofessional. I felt that the people running the program were well-meaning, but ill-equipped to handle even minor conflicts. And with ADHD, even if the child is taking medication, you’re always going to have a certain number of conflicts.

via Lessons in Addressing ADHD and Discipline – In School – ADHD.

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Managing Depression During the Holidays

Right before I got diagnosed with depression, I suffered through the most horrible Christmas ever. On the surface, everything was fine. I spent Christmas Day with my family as usual and a couple of days later my best friend got married in a lovely ceremony and reception. But the moment I was out of sight on my way home from my parents’ house, I burst out crying and cried for hours. And I was only able to endure an hour of the wedding reception before escaping. Thankfully, by the next holiday season my depression was controlled by antidepressants and I truly enjoyed it.

The holidays put a lot of demands on everyone, but are exponentially more difficult for someone with depression. Getting through the usual day to day can be painful, and the holidays add a lot of things to the mix like stress, emotional upheaval and unhealthy (although delicious) food and drink. However, there are a few steps you can take to boost your physical and mental health. Even if the steps don’t boost your mood, they should help to immunize you against some aspects of the holidays that can make your depression worse.

  • Prioritize sleep at the top of your list. Sleep is very important when you’re under stress, and sleep deprivation is not good for people with clinical depression.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Alcohol is a depressant, pure and simple. It might stave off the blues for an hour or so, but will not do you any favors. Its siren song promising temporary oblivion is very tempting, but it’s really the last thing you need.
  • I know this comes as a shocker, but foods high in fat and sugar and not much else are not good for you, and that’s mentally as well as physically. And this is coming from someone who won’t eat vegetables unless they have butter or sauce on them. For one thing, if you’re eating a lot of sugar and fat you’re not eating the good nutrition that can help stave off depression. Second, how irritable do you feel when that sugar high wears off? Not a good look for someone who is clinically depressed to begin with. I know that those holiday foods are yummy and everywhere you turn, but limiting yourself to just sampling those less than healthful foods is a good idea. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on appetizers and dessert. And remember, alcohol has a lot of sugar in it.
  • Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, can be quite rejuvenating, particularly in households where there’s a lot of activity or out-of-town company. Make a cup of tea, go for a walk or find a quiet place to enjoy for a bit. The sounds of silence will be music to your ears.
  • Getting together with family over the holidays can raise a lot of issues. If you’re in therapy, you might want to discuss with your therapist how you should defuse some potential problems. Be honest with family and friends about how you feel. Don’t be afraid of bringing everyone down with your mood; your family and friends may be worried about you, and you will all feel better if there’s an open line of communication.
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