In this guest post, you have the privelege of hearing from my friend, Teri. Teri is married to Bill, and they have two children that are growing up entirely too quickly. They live and serve Jesus in Kentucky, where Bill preaches and serves as a bivocational minister/director of Gospel of God Ministries (http://thegospelofgod.weebly.com).
In light of Robin Williams' tragic passing, I feel the need to give an account of my experience with my teenager's anxiety & depression. If this will help someone else, praise God! I am by no means an expert on this subject, but I can give advice based on what we (my teen and I, and yes, the entire family) have been through. I am one of the lucky parents. My teen asked for help. More than once, because like most parents I put myself in denial. "It's probably a phase", "All teens are sad and miserable, right?" I told myself. No. Don't let yourself fall into this mindset. If your teen asks for help, get it immediately. I say this because kids under 18 years old HAVE to be seen by a psychiatrist in order to get medication if medication is deemed necessary. For this to be deemed necessary requires more than one trip to a psychologist first. They give you "coping" skills. If these skills don't seem to work, then they recommend you see a psychiatrist. This can be a lengthy process, so don't put it off.
If you don't have a child that asks for help, please watch your child for these signs:
1. Sadness, obviously. Does it seem like they never smile anymore? Do they seem withdrawn? Grumpy? Don't want to go anywhere anymore? Have they gone from wanting friends over all the time to never wanting to be around anyone? Was your child full of imagination and wonder when they were younger, but now they don't seem to care about anything? This is our list, but I'm sure there are a lot of other signs.
2. Lack of appetite. Never feels hungry. Won't even eat their favorite foods anymore.
3. Difficult to get out of bed. I know, I know, most teens are this way anyway. But when you feel depressed, this is a REAL struggle, and not just because they stayed up too late.
4. Hates school. Have they gone from liking school, to despising it? Do they spend more time in the counselor's office trying to calm themselves down (from a panic attack) than they do in the classroom? Have a good relationship with your school counselor..they really can be helpful!
5. Panic Attacks. These are HORRIBLE for a child. I went through them as an adult and felt like I was dying. A teen will feel the same way multiplied by 100. You may hear loud sobbing and/or screaming coming from their room. Yes, this will scare you to death! Luckily for me, I knew what to do because of my own experiences with panic attacks and I was able to calm my teen down. If you get help early, you may not have to deal with this!
I'm sure this list could go on and on, but these are the most obvious signs we had. We had a tough time deciding whether or not to medicate our child. In the end we had to ask ourselves this question - "would we rather have a doctor medicate our child and monitor how they are doing or would we rather put this off and let them medicate themselves with drugs and alcohol? Because they will find a way to cope, one way or another." Suicide is also a way to cope. NO ONE should feel this alone, or scared, or helpless. There is professional help! Please seek this for your child!