Part 4: What Every Parent Should Know About Depression and Suicide (have THAT talk)

Hello, my name is Michelle and I work for
Youth Services Bureau. This is part four of a four-part series on, ‘Have That Talk’. Teenage depression actually happens more than
we think. Experts say that one in five teens will access services unlike adults who can
ask for help, so this is why it’s important as a parent of a teen or an adult who is in
contact with a teen to know what some of signs and symptoms are. There’s a lot of pressure
facing teens today from the natural course of going through puberty to trying to understand
who they are and where they fit in. Teenagers express themselves in different ways. For
some teens, if they are feeling depressed, they might isolate themselves or they might
feel a great sense of sadness. Yes, those are symptoms of depression, but there are
also signs to be aware of: increase in irritability, aggression and even rage, loss of interest
from the things they used to enjoy, problems as school, low self-esteem, tearfulness or
frequent crying, withdrawal from friends and family, changes in eating and sleeping habits,
restlessness and agitation. There can also be a lack of enthusiasm, tired, lack of energy,
difficulty concentrating, reckless behaviour. Just as there are as many myths about teenage
depression, there are as many about teenage suicide such as if you talk about teen suicide
you’re planting the seed for teen suicide—that’s not the case. In fact, the more you talk to
you teen and you keep the lines of communication open and you are able to share your concerns,
the less chances your youth is going to feel isolated and withdraw themselves. Some signs
might be: openly talking about death or dying, it could be writing about death or dying,
feeling like they have nothing to look forward to in their future, feeling like their future
is bleak, there is an increase in weapons or there’s an increase of interest in weapons.
There are also other subtle signs that are very similar to depression such serious mood
changes where a teen can go from feeling friendly or being friendly to being highly aggressive.
If you think that your teen is at immediate risk of suicide then call 911. There’s actually four easy steps to do, using
the acronym, TALK. T, which is talk. Offer support; talk to your teen and keep the lines
of communication open being able to share your concerns with your teen. A, for asking
questions. Be cautious when you’re asking the questions that you’re not asking too many
at once. At the same time, it’s okay to ask your teen, ‘Are you feeling depressed? Do
you have thoughts of suicide?’ L, listen to your teen. Listen to them in a non-judgmental
way. What they’re feeling may not seem serious to you, but for them it can be really serious.
K, Keep at it. Try and try again; if you’re finding that your teen isn’t answering you
right away or giving you the answers that you need, continue to ask the questions, gather
resources, stay connected. Youth Services Bureau offers a variety of
mental health services in both English and in French. There is our crisis line, , which
is a 24-hour 7 day a week phone line. There is our Youth Mental Health Walk-In Clinic,
where individuals who may not necessarily need long-term, but need immediate sessions.
We also have our intake department, which meets with families for more specialized service,
so if they are looking for family counselling they would connect with their intake department. Supporting your teen through depression can
be a very bumpy process. At the same time it’s important to be able to celebrate those
successes. If your teen is talking, that’s a success. If you’re still resilient, that’s
a success. So, to be able to highlight those successes and to pay attention to them. Just
as it’s important for teens to have someone to talk to, it’s equally important for parents
to have someone they can talk to. This could be reaching out to a friend, it could be reaching
out to a neighbour, it could be reaching out to a colleague. One, where you can talk about
how stressful it is or how worried you are. Being a parent of a teen can also carry a
sense of guilt; it’s important for self-care to be able to share what it is you are feeling;
that’s really going to be what’s going to keep you going for the next day to be able
to support your teen the way that you want to.

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