It’s time to do away with the seriously outdated idea that one member of a family suddenly has mental health issues and it is only that individual person’s problem. How can any of us still subscribe to this notion?
The big news today in the Sunday Times here in the UK is that 70,000 children in the UK are being put on anti depressants yearly. I dare not find out how many are in depressants in America as I suspect you could add a zero. Or two (it is surprisingly hard to find this information, which is telling. Although Time magazine has an article that discusses rates of anti depressants in people aged ’12 and over’. Since when was that the average age range for anti-depressants?!).
In any case, I hardly feel this is news, that children are being bunged on meds.
Of course for five years now I have been running a popular psychology blog where most of our comments are left by young people. So much so we are now changing the tone and information in our articles to help them.
And hey. Newsflash. There isn’t one young person writing in to me who isn’t referring to family problems.
If you are a parent and you want to know “why is my child depressed?” Ruling out a head injury or a big trauma outside the house like bullying or abuse? You have got to take a long, hard look at yourself, your partner, and anyone else involved in the care of your child.
I am not saying you are a bad parent. I am not saying you should not be a parent. And I am not blaming you. You were probably not parented well yourself. You probably find yourself without any good support. And we are all human. We fuck up. Gloriously. All the time.
What I am AM saying is that parenting is hard. I am saying that families are connected units. I am saying that parenting is a responsibility. And if you chose to have a child, you are responsible for their health, including their mental health. If your problems are affecting your child you are responsible. If you can’t sort those problems out, then you need to seek support.
Today I used Google analytics to look at the numbers of how many parents searched ‘why is my child depressed’ on google each month here in the UK.
Yes, that’s right. There were ten searches for that term. In thirty days.
So I can’t say I’m feeling optimistic about parents seeking help themselves. Which is why I am writing this.
Please don’t tell me I don’t know what I am talking about, saying kids are depressed because of their family. I WAS that child.
I was at the doctor’s at the age of seven for severe ‘unexplained stomach issues’, aka severe anxiety, and a sleep disorder. Yes that is right I had insomnia at aged eight (check out the photo. That was me then). I cried all the time. I was so depressed and anxious that that year I missed 42 days of school. I came across that old report card recently going through a box of memoirs. 42. I had to read it several times to believe it. Why were social services not called? How could the doctor have not asked what was going on in my (incredibly damaged and unstable) family?
Probably for much the same reason that today a child is bunged on antidepressants. Because doctors don’t have to do anything unless they have a conscience. Because nobody is actually watching doctors or parents.
And because nobody wants to be responsible. We are tired, we think we have other priorities. Doctors claim overwork, parents claim they are doing the best they can.
But we ARE responsible. We are the adults. Newsflash, we are in charge.
I admit I am thrilled I am old enough that anti depressants were not yet a thing when I was taken to a doctor aged seven.
But I do wonder, what would have happened if the doctor had of asked my mother about her mental health? Her family life? Her struggles? If he had taken the time to be that human and concerned?
If there was rule in place parents had to get mental health help if their children were suffering? Or if they were made to go to a support group?
I imagine for starters my mother, the victim of severe and repetitive trauma as a child (I am not betraying her confidence, she talks about it openly, constantly), would perhaps have been able to be present enough that the far worse trauma to come in my childhood was avoided by her paying attention. Instead, she was too checked out and incapable. And she was also alone, with no real friends, family, or support network in a country that wasn’t her homeland.
It makes me kind of melancholy to think how different my life might have been. How different I might be today. Although here I am. And I am proud that my life has given me the capacity to be here talking about these issues. No victim lives here.
So yes. Imagine if there were support groups in each community for parents. Free counselling provided. If social workers visited EVERY family, every few months, no exceptions. Not to judge, but to actually support. How much trauma could be avoided? How much would crime levels drop? How much money could we save on mental health, societal problems? A few billion I would reckon. That the government now probably has to make by taxing the pharmaceutical companies who rake in billions.
Parents are the filters for the mental health of their children and the fact that this is not on the table when we know what we know, when it is 2018, is disheartening. If you aren not fighting for your child’s wellbeing, and doing all you can, including taking care of your OWN psychological wellbeing… well then who will care about your child? Are you leaving it up to them when they are old enough to pay for therapy?
Of course it’s the medical establishment and governments should be taken to task, because this is a chain. Parents are not supported, and unsupported parents lead to unsupported children.
Because by giving children anti depressants you are not only making a child responsible for the issues of the adult around them, you are punishing that child. As that child will now experience physical side effects. These are proven. Go look at the studies. Anti depressants are anything but totally safe to take (my brother tried to take his life AFTER taking them, not before, and he is one of many).
You are also neglecting that adult, who is your citizen. You are not giving the adult the support he or she needs.
What would this world look like if a family had a LEGAL responsibility to go to family counselling if a child had signs of depression and anxiety? If a government had a responsibility to provide that counselling free of charge?
Oh wait. That means the billions and billions of dollars the pharaceutical companies make and that governments benefit from would be at risk. Ah. Right. So then why am I bothering writing this article, hmmm?
Because I can’t not. Because we need to start speaking up.
As for the governments and pharmaceutical companies, adults who were given antidepressants as children and experienced negative side effects should band together and take them to court.
One can dream.