Dealing with a Depressed Parent

Hispanic girk looking sad

According to a study performed in 2005 by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (JABFM), depression affects 6.9 % of Puerto Ricans, 2.5% of Cuban-Americans and 2.8% percent of Mexican-Americans. As a teen, it can be difficult to have a depressed parent. Between irritability and mood changes, having a relationship while trying to help a parent can be difficult.

“To cheer up a parent/guardian you need to know what is wrong  [with him/her]… All [she/he] could need is someone to talk to or to hug while [he/she] cries about it,” said Elena Galdeano, 18.

Signs of Depression

First and foremost, you are not the reason for your parent’s sadness; you might be tone of the reasons that could make him/her happier. Depression can affect anyone, and spotting the signs of depression may help you understand what he/she is going through and how to help them.

Depression is caused by a variety of reasons. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people who show signs and symptoms of depression have:

  •                Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  •                Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  •                Irritability, restlessness
  •                Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  •                Fatigue and decreased energy
  •                Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  •                Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  •                Overeating, or appetite loss
  •                Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  •                Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not
    ease even with treatment.

Talking About Depression

When someone is depressed, he/she might need a hug or someone to talk to. If part of his/her depression involves a lot of anger, frustration and irritability, try to remember that his/her frustration may stem from a deeper place (what’s causing the depression) and it’s not directly because of you. Strong emotions mean that he/she will need to seek professional help.

“While it could be scary and strange to see a parent crying it [talking to them about it, letting them cry] could be helpful for them,” Galdeano said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness.”

If your parent refuses to seek professional help, you will not automatically become his/her therapist.

“Don’t tell them you know exactly what they’re going through, unless you have had depression, too,” said Kao.

His/her problems may not be within your control, but you can do simple things around the house to help create a more positive environment. You can help relieve his/her stress by showing them that you care.

“Make them feel needed or important. It’s beneficial for depressed [people] to feel they have meaning in their lives and feel connected with the people around them,” said Stephanie Kao, University of Texas at Austin Sophomore.

Additional ways to show them that you care is by helping out more around the house and maintaining a peaceful and positive environment.

“Getting their mind off it for a moment while they work on it [their problem] by singing or taking them for a walk,” Galdeano said. 

Added stress contributes to depression. Picking your battles (not fighting with parents even though they are showing signs of irritability), taking out the trash, doing laundry, cooking a meal, etc. Between helping out around the house and talking to him/her about depression may make him/her more open to seeking professional help (e.g. counseling).

Dealing With Depression

Dealing with a parent who is depressed can affect you emotionally, too. Take time for yourself. Otherwise, you may become sad from the high-stress environment. Your health is important, which means helping out a parent is not your full-time job.

“Reach out to relatives to have them try to connect with that parent or guardian, too,” said Kao.

Consequences of Depression

Surround yourself with a positive support system with friends and family. Dealing with depression is difficult for the person going through it as well as those around him/her, but a positive support system can help you get through this situation. If you feel that things could escalate to a point where you feel unsafe, have a relative who can act as the mediator or have a back-up place to stay with a friend or relative in case things escalate.

It can be hard coming of age and dealing with the physical and/or mental absence of a parent. However, it can be done and has been done. With the tips mentioned above it is hoped you can do the same. And remember, you have a support system. There are people rooting for your and your parent to get out of their slump as well.

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