Earlier this month, 24-year-old Arjun Bhardwaj, an engineering student, committed suicide by jumping from the 19th floor of hotel Taj Lands End in Mumbai. He even posted a macabre “suicide tutorial” on Facebook.
Allegedly, he was on medication and had been depressed for some time before deciding to end his life.
My heartfelt condolences to the family. This is simply the biggest and most heartbreaking thing that can happen to a parent. I can only imagine the countless hours they will spend wondering what they could have done to stop this.
May be nothing… yet, it is important to note that suicide is the second most common cause of death among 19- 25 year olds! Indeed, it is the most real danger arising from depression.
I am reminded of a favourite book that I am rereading with my 11-year-old, The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom (a wonderful compelling fable that will make you reconsider your own notions of time, how you spend it and how precious it truly is… but I digress).
One of three pivotal characters, Sarah Lemon is an awkward intelligent young teen who has suffered greatly in the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. She lives, like many, in self doubt, seeking affirmation and love.
When her first crush ends with humiliation, she attempts suicide. But in the story, she gets to see the other side… How she had always thought she was alone, no one cared and that she was wrong.
People who loved or admired her were always there for her. She just failed to notice. And she realizes that she would devastate her loved ones by committing suicide.
Yes, depression in teens and pre-teens is real today. Feelings of anger and resentment combined with exaggerated guilt lead to impulsive, self-destructive acts.
Yet, the signs aren’t always obvious. Teens with depression don’t necessarily appear sad.
I looked at the huge smile of Arjun and wondered how this wide grin could hide a heart straining with unbearable pain.
Irritability, anger, and agitation may be the most prominent symptoms – yet these are exactly what we expect from kids in their adolescence with their raging hormones. So what can we parents do?
Set aside time each day to talk-time when you’re totally focused on your teen (no distractions, no multi-tasking, no phones). The simple act of connecting face to face can play a big role in reducing your teen’s depression.
We often read to young kids, and reading to your older kid is a great way to connect. We read books, it could be articles in magazine, anything that gets you talking and relaxing together. Or playing chess/board games.. And yes, resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. Just listen…
Redefine “social”. Stop kids from getting too involved in social media and do what you can to keep your kid connected to others. Encourage them to go out with friends or invite some over.
Involve other families or family members, have lunch out or go watch a movie or do any outdoor activity together – anything that gives your kid an opportunity to meet and connect with other kids… especially if they are not good at doing this on their own, or have stopped.
We often have a very selfish goal set for our kids – study well, make money, become someone. If any of these are problem areas, then they crumble within. Volunteering is a powerful eye opener.
Seeing the world around them, learning to count their own blessing and learning they are helping improve someone’s life is a wonderful anti-depressant. The love you get from them empowers them with a sense of purpose and can also be a good bonding experience.
While it is obvious to say eat nutritious, balanced meals, it is important that the kids realise that health is to be treasured. They need to consciously make a choice to turn down foods that are unhealthy and shun habits like taking drugs and drinking alcohol that will make them hollow from within and weaken their minds.
We often struggle with this at home. I constantly call my hubby a kill-joy because he makes it a point to underline that a party cannot mean a truckload of junk food.
Kids need to understand that it is unhealthy and that the extremely sugary and starchy foods — the quick pick me up of many depressed teens — is not going to make the body or the brain happy.
Teaching kids to relish and choose health and fitness rather than emphasising the “party idea” of expensive eat-out sessions will go a long way in building a strong resolve.
I am no expert. Just a concerned mother with a very heavy heart and a pre-teen kid going through her share of issues with bullying and image issues. Please feel free to comment and add on any more ideas you may have.
In case anyone dealing with depression is reading this, please trust me, life is precious. Do not throw it away. There are many kids struggling with debilitating diseases that are snatching them away.
You have been blessed. There is a reason you are here. You need to look in the right direction. Stop and talk to someone. You will be surprised to see how many hearts beat for you.