By Jose Pujalte Jr.
“Let not another’s disobedience
to Nature become an ill to you.”
— Epictetus, (A.D. c. 50–c. 138), Stoic philosopher,
That we ought not to be affected by Things not in our own Power. Chap. xxiv.
The Roman slave turned freedman turned Stoic philosopher wrote centuries ago: “For you were not born to be depressed and unhappy with others, but to be happy with them. And if any is unhappy, remember that he is so for himself; for God made all men to enjoy felicity and peace.”
Symptoms of depression. The cut-off period between sadness and depression in the textbooks is two weeks. This is to say that mere sadness, disappointment, a somber mood should last no longer than two weeks. Normal people somehow cope and snap out of it. The link between depression and suicide is strong. The point here is that if depression is because of poverty or misfortunes alone, then we’d have millions of Filipinos hanging themselves or jumping from buildings or walking in front of speeding buses. Major depression throws a person out of kilter and the symptoms, according to familydoctor.org are:
- No interest in things that used to be pleasurable.
- Feeling sad or empty.
- Crying easily or crying for no reason.
- Feeling slowed down or feeling restless and unable to sit still.
- Weight gain or weight loss.
- Thoughts about death or suicide.
- Trouble thinking, recalling things, or on focusing on what needs to be done.
- Problems sleeping, especially in the early morning or wanting to sleep all the time.
- Feeling tired all the time.
- Feeling emotionally numb, sometimes to the point of not being able to cry.
Depression in children. The symptoms above are those seen in adults. Mental health professionals admit that diagnosing depression in children is more difficult. The Mayo Clinic has nevertheless identified some additional signs and symptoms in kids. A preschooler (defined as between 3 and 5 years old) may be listless, has decreased interest in playing, and cries easily and more often than usual.
A depressed elementary school child may be listless and moody, more irritable than usual, looks sad, easily discouraged, complains of boredom, has difficulty in school work and talks about death. Finally, a depressed teenager is always tired, drops out of favorite activities, has more arguments with parents and teachers, refuses to do homework or chores, engages in harmful behavior such as cutting herself or himself, and has suicidal thoughts.
Get help now. A school will have resident Guidance Counselors. They do more than give out IQ tests and prepare students for careers. They are always ready to lend an ear. Most have degrees in Psychology but more than that, they ought to be approachable and trustworthy. In high school at La Salle Green Hills, we even had a peer counseling program (Discovery). It was based on the premise that it is easier for people to open up to someone their age, temperament or background. Initially, a caring classmate or teacher can reach out to the troubled child or teen. The next step, however, must involve professional help.
Treatment. A psychiatrist or psychologist should be consulted. For kids, they usually apply short-term cognitive behavior therapy as a way of developing a positive and healthy self-image. Depressed children see themselves mostly in negative terms. When is medication used? There are four reasons to start using antidepressants – when a child has: Chronic or recurring depression, has psychosis or bipolar (“manic-depressive”) disorder, doesn’t have access to psychotherapy or has severe symptoms that are not likely to respond to psychotherapy alone.
It takes a basic understanding of depression, astute observation and room for compassion to help. Not all sad children are just, as we say, “KSP” (kulang sa pansin or lacking attention). Some are deathly sick.
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