Mental Illness Part 7 – What Parents Need to Know About Major Depression

by | Jul 8, 2024 | Mental Illness | 0 comments

photo cred. Hassan Vakil on unsplash

This is part 7 in a series on mental illness. If your son or daughter has been diagnosed with depression, this is for you. Depression is one of the most common mental health issues, robbing millions of their quality of life. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, nami.org, is an excellent source of education, advocacy, and support for individuals and their families. They are my source for this blog post.

Brain disorders are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing. They are medical conditions that men, women, and sometimes children, have no control over, like diabetes or cancer. These disorders diminish one’s ability to function and cope with the usual demands of life. The result is a huge ripple effect on family members and society in general. Compassion, understanding, and support are needed in abundance.

If you love someone who suffers with major depression – maybe that’s you – please be encouraged. There is plenty of help and hope. One of the best steps you as a parent can take is to become as informed and knowledgeable as possible. This post will help you get started.

Major depression affected 21 million Americans (8.4%) of the population in 2020. People of all ages, races, socio-economic, and religious groups were affected. The leading cause of disability in the U.S, and in many other developed countries, depression is a serious medical condition. Major or clinical depression is more than going through a difficult time, temporarily feeling sad or blue. If someone experiences an episode of depression, they’re more likely to have another one sometime in their lives.

Causes

Research has shown that major depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Some psychiatrists say the “brain soup” is out of whack. This can be caused by low amounts of serotonin; genetic factors (it can be hereditary); life events (loss of a loved one); a physical illness; financial or relationship problems, or a chronic stress. It’s more than feeling blue or down or sad for a day or two.

Symptoms

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Beware of more than three of these symptoms, lasting more than four weeks.

  • Changes in sleep: Insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Changes in appetite: Decreased or increased.
  • Impaired concentration and decision-making: Trouble focusing and making decisions
  • Loss of energy: Unable to do usual daily activities. Slowed responses.
  • Low self-esteem: Negative thoughts of losses or failures and guilt.
  • Feelings of hopelessness: Belief that nothing will ever improve; thoughts of suicide.

If you see these in your child, or in yourself, seek help from a doctor right away. If the doctor confirms your suspicions, they may refer you to a psychiatrist for an evaluation since they’re not trained in prescribing medications for mental illness, other than possibly a mild anti-depressant.

The sooner you seek professional help the better. The longer you wait, the harder depression is to treat and the longer it can take for treatment to work. Getting your “brain soup” back where it needs to be requires patience and time.

This is the hard part where a lot of emotional support is needed … the waiting.

Treatment

Medication, counseling, and healthy lifestyle choices are standard treatment. Sadly, it can take up to 6 weeks for a prescribed medication to begin working. That’s a long time, especially if the person is suicidal. This is the most diffcult part of treating a mental illness. And our bodies area always changing. A medication might work well for a while, then something shifts and it stops working or needs adjusted. Sometimes, several different combinations will need to be tried. This may be an ongoing process that needs to be accepted.

A therapist friend of mine insists that counseling combined with medication is the best approach for treating any mental illness. Not just one approach to the exclusion of the other. Medication simply helps to regulate a person’s mood so that their deeper issues can be addressed and feelings can be processed. Peer support groups are always helpful.

As loving, caring parents, we suffer watching our child suffer. Mental illness affects the whole family. We need support too. NAMI and Fresh Hope offer both peer groups and groups for the family. Groups are also available in person and online. Fresh Hope also offers groups for teens. And our ministry offers online and in-person support groups for parents whose children have a mental illness of any kind, as well as other issues.

Recovery

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Most people treated for major depression return to their normal feelings and activities in weeks or months. Several different medications may need to be tried to find the best one in the right dosage. Success in recovery depends on the type of depression, its severity, and length of duration.

Remember, there’s no need for shame or embarrassment. Someone who has major depression is in good company. Remember the statistics? They (or you) are not the only one suffering. 8.4% of the population in the U.S. struggles too. Encourage your child not to isolate or deprive themselves of the help and support that’s available. It’s okay not to be okay! And God understands. He will never abandon anyone. He is there to comfort you and your loved one.

One way God encourages me is through the Scriptures:

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace (Psalm 29:11) NIV.

…weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5b) NIV.

Hope is real. You’re Not Alone! God is with you.

Resources 

It’s Okay Not to be Okay by Shielia Walsh

Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengtson  – written by a neuropsychologist who dealt with major depression herself.

My Name is Hope by John Mark Comer – written by a young pastor who struggled with anxiety and depression.

Grace for the Children: Finding Hope in the Midst of Child and Adolescent Mental Illness by Matthew Stanford – The church is uniquely positioned to offer things our mental health system often lacks: hope, a holistic view of human nature, accessible care, and supportive community. This book is a call for the church to pick up this mantle and to offer grace to children and adolescents suffering from mental health disorders.

**These books are all listed on the books page of our website. As Amazon Affiliates we receive a small percent of sales. The profits help support this ministry.

NAMI

Fresh Hope

***What do you think? Where have you found help or resources? Please share in comments. We want to hear from you!

 

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