CANADA: Let’s Talk About Teen Depression

CANADA: Let’s Talk About Teen Depression

bell_lets_talk2About a week before Halloween last year, a teenage boy named Joshua committed suicide. He had graduated Grade 8 at my son’s school just four months previously, and in September he had started attending the local high school across the road. Everything was going well. He was adjusting to high school and making new friends, and he was happy.

Except he wasn’t.

About six weeks after the start of the new school year, Joshua’s younger brother Tommy needed help with his homework. He knocked on Joshua’s bedroom door and went in, expecting to see Joshua hard at work on his own homework. Instead, Tommy saw the body of his brother hanging from the curtain rail by a belt.

Nobody knows what drove Joshua to such a tragic extreme. He never spoke of any crises, there was no bullying that anyone was aware of, and he seemed to be fitting in well at his new school. In the absence of any other answers, Joshua’s family are slowly arriving at the conclusion that this was a case of teen depression that was never detected.

What makes teen depression so hard to identify is that so many of the symptoms and warning signs are seen as just a part of being an adolescent. As young people experience the firestorm of pubescent hormones, they start to speak and act differently. They become self-conscious about their bodies, they display the infamous “teenage attitude”, they fight all kinds of internal battles as they try to figure out who they are. Self-esteem takes a knock, they may become withdrawn, aggressive or both, and they start to guard their privacy more closely than before.

Yes, all of these things are typical teenage behaviours. But they are also typical behaviours of people experiencing depression.

It creates a minefield for parents, who have to balance respect for their child’s growing need for privacy with enough vigilance to know when something is wrong.

The Canadian statistics surrounding youth and mental illness are deeply troubling:

  • Up to 20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness
  • Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world
  • Suicide accounts for 24% of teen deaths in Canada – the second leading cause of death in this age group

(Source: Centre for Addiction & Mental Health)

So what can we as parents do to keep our children safe from the ravages of mental illness? How do we tell if a teen is just being a teen or if there is something else going on? I did an informal survey of parents, teachers and mental health practitioners, and this is the advice they had to offer:

  • Create open lines of communication with your children from as early an age as possible. If they grow up knowing they can talk to you about anything, they will be more likely to approach you if something is wrong.
  • Make mental health a topic of conversation in your household, just as you talk about physical health. You encourage your kids to tell you if they are not feeling physically well – the same should happen if they are not feeling mentally well.
  • Allow your teen to have privacy, but establish an understanding that his or her privacy only goes so far. Social media accounts should be set up under your supervision, and you should know the passwords.
  • Ensure that your teen has access to a trusted adult apart from you. Every adolescent has things that they are not comfortable talking to their own parents about, but they still need guidance on those things. It could be an aunt or uncle, a teacher, or a family friend.
  • Watch out for changes in behaviour patterns. It is normal for teens to go through periods of being irritable or emotional. If it lasts for a longer time than usual, or if it is accompanied by changes to eating or sleeping patterns, there might be something going on.
  • If your teen starts to wear clothing that doesn’t make sense – such as long sleeves in summer – they may be hiding the marks of self-injury.
  • When in doubt, simply ask. Many teens struggle alone with depression or anxiety because they simply don’t know how to talk about it. All they need is for the conversation to be opened.

Teen depression – or any mental illness – is very frightening for the teenager, and for the loved ones. The bad news is that right now, mental health services are only being provided to one in five Canadian kids who need them – mostly because the need is not being identified. The good news is that in the vast majority of cases, getting help can make a huge positive difference in the lives of these kids.

How do you approach discussions of mental illness in your family? Have you ever had to seek treatment for a child or a teenager suffering from a mental illness?

Today, January 27th, is Bell Let’s Talk day in Canada. For every tweet using the #BellLetsTalk hashtag, and for every Facebook share of the image in this post, Bell Canada will donate five cents to mental health initiatives.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle. Image courtesy of the Bell Let’s Talk campaign for mental health awareness.


Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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BC, CANADA: How To Tell A Depressed Spouse From A Jackass: A Mom’s Guide

BC, CANADA: How To Tell A Depressed Spouse From A Jackass: A Mom’s Guide

100369250_3cd4e5760dOf all of the illnesses that can descend upon a happy family, I consider depression to be among the worst.

Depression kills.

Suicide is one of the top ten causes of death in Canada. In my age group, it is the #2 killer, after accidental death. I am more likely to die by suicide than from cancer. I am four times more likely to be killed by myself than by a murderer.

My husband is even higher risk. He has a 20% chance of dying by suicide… that’s a 1/5 chance, worse than a toss of a die.

Shortly after my miscarriage, my husband, who has always been prone to depression, became suicidal. He was committed, he went on short term disability, he got put on a bunch of medications, none of which seemed to help.

For months I spent all day at work worried that I would find a corpse when I came home, and wondering how I would explain his death to our three year old son.

Now he seems to have leveled out a bit, and while he still has suicidal thoughts, the chance of him acting on them is much less. But he’s still unable to work, unable to do much of anything. He’s not himself.

I miss him.

Depression affects the mind and body. Not only is the sufferer often physically unable to function, but they also suffer personality changes. That makes life extremely hard for the spouse, because even though I KNOW it is a disease, even though I KNOW my husband is in pain, even though I KNOW it is out of his control…

I sometimes have to work hard not to get frustrated or angry.

Because, quite honestly… a depressed spouse closely resembles a jackass.

For the past 6 months, I have essentially been acting as a single parent, while my husband lay on the couch.

If I was on the outside of this relationship looking in, and I didn’t know about the depression, I would think my husband was a major ass.

But depression is NOT the same as being an ass, and if you are married to a depressed spouse, there are little things you can look for to assure yourself that, yes, they are, in fact, sick and not actually jackasses or jerks.

How To Tell A Depressed Spouse From A Jackass

  • A jackass sleeps in every morning, while you get up with the kids…. But a depressed spouse physically cannot be woken up at times, and may sleep for 24 hours straight.
  • A jackass doesn’t help around the house…  But a depressed spouse knows that your workload is too heavy and is grateful for any housework you manage to do.
  • A jackass leaves you to do the majority of the childcare… But a depressed spouse still exerts special effort to stay involved every now and then. He will physically collapse after attempting this.
  • A jackass never wants to do your favourite things with you… But a depressed spouse never wants to do his own favourite things any more, either.
  • A jackass snaps at you out of the blue all of the time… But a depressed spouse sometimes cries out of the blue, too.
  • A jackass wants to live… But a depressed spouse may not.

All you can do is be as kind as understanding as you can. I like to ask myself, “Would it be okay for me to expect this of him if he had cancer?” or “What would I say if he had cancer, instead of depression?” and then I do that. Because he has a deadly disease, and I need to remember that.

The best thing to remember when trying to get through life with a depressed spouse is to constantly remind yourself of this:

  • A jackass will always be a jackass… But a depressed spouse used to help with the housework, used to contribute equally to childcare, used to do fun things with you… and will again some day, when he recovers.

Do any of you have loved ones with depression? How do you cope?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Carol.  She can be found blogging at If By Yes and on Twitter @IfByYesTweets

Photo credit to Paranoid Monk.  This photo has a creative commons attribute license.

Carol (Canada)

Carol from If By Yes has lived in four different Canadian provinces as well as the Caribbean. Now she lives in Vancouver, working a full time job at a vet clinic, training dogs on the side, and raising her son and daughter to be good citizens of the world. Carol is known for wearing inside-out underwear, microwaving yoghurt, killing house plants, over-thinking the mundane, and pointing out grammatical errors in "Twilight". When not trying to wrestle her son down for a nap, Carol loves to read and write. Carol can also be found on her blog, If By Yes, and on Twitter @IfByYesTweets

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NEW ZEALAND: Christchurch: Looking Forward One Month After the Quake

NEW ZEALAND: Christchurch: Looking Forward One Month After the Quake

At 4.35am, on the 4th September 2010, the city of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island was hit by an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale.

It’s epicentre was close to the township of Darfield, 40 km (25 miles) west of Christchurch. There was widespread damage and power outages, two people were seriously injured and one person died from a heart-attack during the quake.

Originally I wrote here: anyone who lives along the Pacific Ring of Fire might have thought, “that could have been us.”  90% of all the world’s earthquakes and 80% of  all major earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, which extends from New Zealand through Indonesia and the Phillipines, through Japan along the Aleutian Islands and along the west coast of the Americas.

Then, on the 11th of March just off the coast of Japan a huge (8.9 )earthquake hit. The tsunami it triggered killed at least ten thousand people, and injured many more. It caused massive damage to the northeastern coast of the country. Perhaps more than anyone else in the world, people in Christchurch understood and empathised. (more…)

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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