Depression is cruel, it might be the most vicious of any condition. You can’t see it and it’s hard to explain – those in its grip may not be even able to explain it themselves. So it stays hidden, and quietly consumes one isolated person from behind drawn curtains and forced smiles.

It’s different from feeling down or sad, which is something everyone feels now and again. A person living with depression will experience an anxiety, hopelessness, negativity and helplessness that never leaves them.

And nobody is safe. If it can destroy the Genie from Aladdin, the DJ from Good Morning Vietnam and Patch Adams, then none of us is immune.

Depression tells you you’re worthless, hopeless and that your family and friends would be better off without you. And the worst, most vicious and cruel part? You believe every word of it.

Of course you believe it – your own mind is telling you so.

Imagine how hard it is to persuade yourself that you are wrong when your own brain is telling you the opposite. You can’t fix your mind using your mind alone. It’s like trying to fix a car’s busted engine by just continuing to drive and hoping it fixes itself. It won’t end well.

So what causes it? Everything. And sort of nothing. It’s a mental disorder, which means it’s all happening in a person’s mind.

I think Stephen Fry described it best:

“Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”

The things that go on around that person – family, health, work, love, life, death, birth, marriage – may play some part in triggering or influencing depression but it’s rarely the whole story. The real problem is on the inside, the external stuff is secondary.

That said, those of us touched by disability are particularly susceptible. Research shows:

While it more commonly affects young adults and adults with disabilities, it can still affect children. There are some things to look out for:

  • extreme feelings of sadness
  • lack of interest or pleasure in most or all activities
  • significant weight gain or loss
  • sleeping too little or too much
  • restlessness or exhaustion
  • low energy
  • feeling worthless
  • difficulty concentrating

Of course, only a qualified mental health professional can make use of these symptoms to diagnose depression in your child, but these are key indicators to be aware of. If you recognise these symptoms, either in yourself or your child, and they persist for long periods of time, speak to a professional and don’t try to combat it alone.

Here are some places you can start the search for support or advice:

UK

Mental Health Foundation

Contact A Family

US

National Alliance on Mental Illness


 

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