Children Suffering in Silence? Part 1

These days, depression is an epidemic. About 20 percent of the adult population meets the criteria for some form of depression, but the numbers may be higher than that, as many people suffer depression in silence. If one out of every five adults is clinically depressed, then we must ask ourselves: How many children are living with an affected parent, and how many of these adults are still undiagnosed and untreated?

Richard O’Connor, a Connecticut-based psychotherapist and the author of Active Treatment of Depression, says that many kids labeled as troubled or anxiety-prone, or diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and other behavioral problems could be responding to a parent’s condition, not their own. Ironically, some depressed parents even blame their children for “stressing them out,” when in fact it is their own condition that is harming the child and causing the problematic behavior.

How Depressed Parents Affect Their Children
A depressed adult may not realize how extensively children model themselves after their parents. For example, many depressed adults self-medicate by means of substance abuse. A child who observes a depressed adult drinking him- or herself into a stupor may internalize the lesson that alcoholism is an appropriate way to deal with sad or unwanted feelings.

Also, depressed parents who have difficulty sleeping, maintaining social and professional relationships or taking care of themselves may not devote sufficient time and energy to their children and can be incapable of providing them with the models and support children need to thrive.

What can be done to break this cycle and help kids who are in a situation they can’t understand or control? The primary need is for the parent to recognize and seek treatment for his or her depression, and for the healthy parent to take an active role.

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