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Have you been/are you the parent of a teenager with depression?

(53 Posts)
Dumbledoresgirl Mon 22-Jun-09 10:35:01

Please tell me your experiences. What did you do? Did you approach school or the doctor and what help was offered you? What services are there?

My son (only 13 yesterday) is so miserable right now - has been for some weeks now - and I am beginning to crack myself under the pressure of not knowing what to do for him.

So far, I have met his tutor at school (with him) and tried to understand what his problems are but he was not very forthcoming and nothing he said really accounted for his misery.

He is a very bright, high achieving, excellently behaved pupil in school so none of that is an issue. He has friends but does not see them enough in school as they are not in the same classes as him. I know that is a problem for him but not sufficient to make him as unhappy as he is.

He has started to have stomach aches every day, he never wants to go to school, he says he is unhappy all the time, and this morning he was crying. He is also not eating (eg lunch comes home uneaten although he is mainly eating ok at meals where I am watching over him.

Please advice me on what I should do. Go to the doctor? Ask for an educational psychologist to see him? What happened with your child?

sb9 Mon 22-Jun-09 10:46:30

I dont have experience other than i was a child who was depressed and so was my sister. My sister acted out and was rebellious and i kept it inside. So at them moment i wold say well done for trying to help.

Is there a problem you know of? With us it was my parent divorce... I didnt have my depression 'dealt with' and so as i 34 year am still struggling so i would say yes please go and get him help now.

Dumbledoresgirl Mon 22-Jun-09 10:52:08

Thank you for replying. Well there is a problem going on somewhere, but I really don't know where as ds won't tell me anything (except that he is unhappy). His father and I are happily married and there hasn't been any obvious trauma that I know of (some bullying at school but this was dealt with).

I am sorry you are still dealing with depression. I had it a bit as a teen and in my 20s so I know what it feels like and I can't bear to think of my son suffering in the same way. I just don't know what support there might be out there for him.

NervousNutty Mon 22-Jun-09 14:00:05

My Dd2 sounds very similar to your Ds, although she isn't a teen, she is 9. She is constantly tired, lethargic, very snappy and irritable and has gone off her food.

I am not sure what the hell is going on with her at the mo, wether it is depression or some underlying illness, maybe anemia. I am taking her to the gp tommorow evening and i'm hoping she will be offered a blood test.

If that comes back fine then it has to be depression which is awful, she is only 9.

I would go to the gp with your ds and just tell them his symptoms and see what they suggest happens next.

PacificDogwood Mon 22-Jun-09 16:02:14

I have just popped over from the "bruising thread" wink (glad to hear no reason to be worried) and will give you the benefit of my wisdom hmm:
Go and see your Gp and get your son referred to the Mental Health Team, they should have a department for young people. Our lot here are called "Child and Family Clinic" (Scotland).
He may simple be a male teenager: at 13 a fair number of boys turn quite suddenly into sullen, grunting, unhappy beings, but then again there may be more to it. Getting him assessed by a stranger who is not as emotionally close as you are can be very helpful.
Again blood tests may be helpful, mainly to rule out an underactive thyroid (which is rare as hen's teeth in teenaged boys).
Good luck.

Dumbledoresgirl Mon 22-Jun-09 17:03:55

Oh gosh NN isn't it a nightmare? You look at photos of your child when they were a smiling toddler and wonder what happened to that child. My ds seems like a completely different person now.

Thanks for popping over PD smile Well, ds came home from school and again had eaten and drunk nothing all day saying he "didn't feel like it". I rang the surgery and a GP rang me back and I am taking him in to see him tomorrow. I am really pleased with that service though I am still so doubtful as to what can be done for him. I don't want him on ADs though of course I want whatever will make him happy again. I will ask about the Mental Health Team, thanks.

NervousNutty Mon 22-Jun-09 17:05:49

It certainly is, and very frustrating especially when they keep saying there is nothing wrong.

Good luck for tommorow smile

maryz Mon 22-Jun-09 17:15:16

My ds has been suffering off and on with depression since he was 9. He has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, but the depression in the major factor that affects his everyday life. I have been battling for help for him, and he managed quite well while he was attending a psychologist and getting occasional counselling. However, when he was 13 he refused to go anymore, and we were told we couldn't make him. Unfortunately he then started to self-medicate with cannabis (which he says makes him relaxed and less anxious).

This has had a disastrous effect. He has been expelled from school and lost interest in life. He cannot now be treated with anti-depressants, because of what they call cross-addiction. People say cannabis is not addictive, but certainly ds uses it all the time and his behaviour is becoming more and more erratic.

I think you should go for help if he agrees. Mine is a worst-case scenario, but believe me you don't want your son to end up like mine and I think all suspicions of depression in teenagers should be taken very seriously. It is important to get treatment before they fall below the line at which they will accept help, iykwim.

PacificDogwood Mon 22-Jun-09 18:19:46

IME, ADs in that age group would be very much a last resort.
Get him referred for some counselling which will probably involve you and the rest of the family to some extent too.
I presume you have already asked the school whether they are aware of a problem?
Glad to hear he will be seen promptly.

RockinSockBunnies Mon 22-Jun-09 18:30:25

I was also a teenager with depression. Mine stemmed from various things, both chemical and emotiaonl. One key thing being that I was bisexual and made the (disastrous) decision to come out at an all-girls school and was thus bullied for years.

My problems were never really dealt with by anyone (GP included) because it wasn't really recognised that teenagers could be clinically depressed and treated effectively. I was referred to a counsellor whom I loathed. I had one session and never went back. Retrospectively, I wish they'd put me on antidepressants back then.

I'd certainly push for everything on offer and ensure that the problem is taken seriously, rather than brushed off as the usual adolescent angst. Hope things improve soon.

Dumbledoresgirl Mon 22-Jun-09 21:02:06

Yes school are aware of a problem. I have met his tutor and tried to address the issues with her and him but I don't think the problems ds describes at school can really account for his unhappiness - rather that his unhappiness is causing the problems at school.

I can't see ds taking to counselling tbh, so I have a feeling nothing much can be done for him - I wonder even what he hopes to gain from seeing the doctor - but I am prepared to give it a go.

So sad to read your stories maryz and Rockinsockbunnies.

Yurtgirl Mon 22-Jun-09 21:12:32

Hmmm this is interesting - I dont have personal experience of parenting a child with depression........ yet

I think if my ds continues in the school system much longer he may well become depressed though

What does he say about his misery? About school? What does he think might make him feel better?
Is he at all better during halfterm/school holidays?
Is he being bullied?
Could it be the competitive nature of school?
Worries about failure, illness, bereavement

A few questions that have come to my mind!

Yurtgirl Mon 22-Jun-09 21:14:54

Sorry I fear you have answered some of my endless list of questions already!

Dumbledoresgirl Mon 22-Jun-09 22:30:42

What does he say about his misery? He just says he is unhappy all the time. When I ask him about things you might associate with depression eg low self-esteem, insomnia, thoughts of death shock he says he has all of them.

About school? He suddenly hates school and has seemingly permanent stomach aches on school days (and now even on days when he doesnt have school). He has never really minded going to school before.

What does he think might make him feel better? He doesn't have any idea, or at least none that he is prepared to mention to me.

Is he at all better during halfterm/school holidays? Yes I would say he is better but if you ask him he says he still feels unhappy and the stomach aches are still there.

Is he being bullied? Yes he was being bullied by some Year 10s but I think the school managed to deal with that. He now says he is being bullied by his tutor group but nothing he describes amounts to bullying imo.

Could it be the competitive nature of school? I don't think so. Ds is very able in academic subjects and actually complains that in some subjects he is bored so I don't think he is feeling much pressure there (could be wrong though).

Worries about failure, illness, bereavement Hmmm I have no idea tbh. He is my eldest so I think he suffers a bit from parental expectations/having to forge a path within the family etc. He is never ill and has not been bereaved so if those things are bothering him, I don't know where it is coming from.

I really don't understand what is going on with him at all tbh.

Did those questions relate to how you feel your child's life might be going Yurtgirl?

Yurtgirl Mon 22-Jun-09 22:42:05

Tis interesting indeed Dumble
Isnt there a difference between depression brought on by something specific and depression caused by nothing much?
Im clutching at straws!

My ds is bored senseless at school, which results in challenging behaviour at school and home - school not interested in helping really, as they think they already are hmm
Ds has Aspergers. He is only 7 and regularly talks about knives, murdering people etc
He isnt depressed atm but I can imagine he may well become that way - specifically due to school
Which is why I guess I was wondering about a 'cause' with your ds
Maybe there doesnt need to be a cause though

There is a mental health charity for kids.... I am trying to remember what it is called

maryz Mon 22-Jun-09 22:53:42

Yurtgirl, your ds sounds a bit like mine used to. DG, I think if you can possibly find something, anything that he is interested in, to give him a reason to look forward that is the best thing you can do for him. Our real problems with ds1 only came to a head when he gave up all sport, as that was the one thing that took his mind off his other problems.

I think you are better off if you can find a "cause" cos then you can try and deal with it. For example you could react to specific bullying by moving schools (or we have even considered moving house!). I know antidepressants aren't usually recommended for teenagers, but I wish I had pushed for them then we might have avoided the cannabis route. ds stopped counselling as soon as he could refuse to go.

ds just says that when he has smoked he feels relaxed and as though life isn't "not worth living". We have drawn a blank for help for him now, as they just say that he can access help as soon as he is willing, but he isn't willing.

We also worry about ds as there has been a glut of suicides around here recently - about 15 in the last 3 months within 10 miles of us, all aged between 11 and 16. I hope you get some help from the gp.

morningsun Mon 22-Jun-09 23:52:50

It does sound as if it is connected to school ~ does he resist going?
Does he sleep ok at night and does he wake early in the morning?
Is he physically fit and well looking?
Is he obsessive over mistakes or difficulties?
Is he hiding somethinglike a medical symptom?
Could he have a fear of letting you all down?
Is he behaving oddly or could he be hearing voices?
Is he online a lot?
Have the bullies threatened him with something?

Just ideas to see if anything rings a bell.
13/14 is a VERY secretive age and he could be hiding some fear etc

In general terms,tell him you will help him with any problem he has,and that problems can be sorted out and will pass.

Also try to invite his friends over and do extra things as a family and be together watching tv etc as much as possible.Ask him to help cook etc to spend more time with him.
Go to the gp[and if he wants to,you can go in with him at first and then he can be alone for a few mins with dr if he wants to].

My dd developed bowel disease at this age and hid it completely.

morningsun Mon 22-Jun-09 23:55:18

just noticed stomach aches and not eating ~is he getting up at night to go to the loo or could he be losing blood os something?

morningsun Mon 22-Jun-09 23:58:01

my dds explaination for not telling us straight away was she thought it was cancer so there was nothing you could do??

Dumbledoresgirl Tue 23-Jun-09 10:35:11

Oh God reading all this is scaring me rather!

I do wonder if ds is hiding something from me. Even before he got unhappy he was not the most forthcoming boy. He and I have very different personalities: I am very open, talk about everything, make a big scene about everything, move quickly from mood to mood (I am not Italian, but a lot of Italians have mistaken me for one simply by my moods and volability blush) Ds is quiet, reserved, does not show emotions, does not discuss feelings or motivations easily etc. Because we are so different, I think he finds it quite hard talking to me sad - almost as though I am going to embarrass him sad Anyway, so I do wonder if he is keeping something from me and yesterday I did ask if that was the case while emphasising that I would not push him to tell me what that thing was, but he didn't really respond one way or another so I still don't know if he is hiding anything.

I don't think he would hide health issues though (but who knows?) He is a very healthy child - when the doctor rang me back to speak to me, he asked me who ds normally saw in the practice and I told him he has never had occasion to see anyone in 4 years.

That said, he was ok this morning and went to school without any fuss. We are seeing the GP tonight and I am worrying that I won't be able to get over to him what the problem is. But if I say he is unhappy all the time, has isolated himself from his tutor group, does not eat or drink in school when there is no-one to make him do so, has persistent stomach aches with no apparent illness, and has difficulty getting to sleep at night, do you think that sounds like enough reason to be bothering the doctor?

moshie Tue 23-Jun-09 10:44:33

Yes definately. Do not think you are "bothering" your GP, those are symptoms of depression.

morningsun Tue 23-Jun-09 10:49:26

so sorry dumbledoresgirl did not mean to make you more worriedsmile
we have had some mental health issues recently in this area in very middle class/professional families and I do feel its better to try to unearth the problem when you have a feeling something isn't right.

However,sometimes it can be more simple everyday things like problems with friends/minor bullying/leaving out.

It sounds like it could be bullying/a problem at school/friendship problem.

But its better to keep an open mind about other things.

Is there dad/uncle/other adult he could talk to as well?

Tell the gp you are concerned re his stomach aches,lack of appetite and being withdrawn but you do not know the reason.Give your ds chance for a private chat if he wants one.Tell you ds you can help with whatever it is,not to bottle it up.Try and think of anything you hid from your parents and tell him about it in a jokey way.Have a look for an emotionally based book about growing up,adolescence etc for him to read alone.

Good luck and sorry for the doom and gloom!

morningsun Tue 23-Jun-09 10:52:31

Sorry in answer to your question,yes definitely go to the gp especially as you have also mentioned sleep problems,which together with loss of appetite and not enjoying anything could be signs of depression and/or anxiety over something.

moshie Tue 23-Jun-09 11:01:16

Just being left out of things, or being ignored by his tutor group could be making him very unhappy at school, it doesn't have to be aggression or violence to be bullying.
My DD found it very diifficult at school when she moved to the upper school and was put in different lesson groups to her friends.
It's best to get advice at this stage to hopefully prevent things escalating. Good luck, it's not an easy thing to deal with.

Dumbledoresgirl Tue 23-Jun-09 11:57:47

He isn't being left out of his tutor group though, that's the odd thing. He has chosen to isolate himself from them. It is odd behaviour, don't you think?

What I meant to say was, yes there are all those things that I will point out to the GP, but ds is capable of a cheerful face, cracking jokes with his brother, getting enthusiastic about his hobby and he will probably smile and joke with the GP tonight. Will the GP see through this and appreciate that what I am telling him about ds's other behaviour is as bad as it feels to me?

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