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When Depression Hits Close to Home

Interestingly enough, doctors prescribe medications but do not like themselves or their families to be on medications. They avoid seeing doctors and often get substandard healthcare. They are late for their physicals, mammograms, etc. Their families miss their annual exams, vaccinations, etc or get them done in a rush in order to meet school standards.

We are bad about taking the time for ourselves to have balance but yet preach it to our patients. We often wait until a crisis to change our lives or lifestyles. If our children do not have a fever or a broken bone they are told to continue with their daily lives. We often tell them to suck it up and keep going. This is exactly what happened to my daughter this year. I was so busy helping other people and families that I missed what was going on at my own home.

This year with the Covid Pandemic, our children were at home while many medical workers were fighting in the front line. Many people did not realize mental health workers were in the front line as well. They worked throughout the lockdown. They did not take time off and in fact, they worked more than ever.

My children were no different. They were home during the lockdown. My husband was home with them for two months since he was a dentist and was required to close his office as it was considered non-essential. This was a first for my children, as they always had a mother who would be the one to sacrifice her work when they were sick or had to be home. Tables had to turn and this made everyone in the family uncomfortable. I was given the task of caring for patients while hoping my family would be okay. They were, once again, put on the back burner.

One day, about 4 months into the lockdown, my mother and sister came to me concerned about my daughter. They felt she was depressed. I was horrified. How could they say that? I was a psychiatrist and I knew what depression looks like. I told them they were wrong and dismissed their concerns. I told them my daughter was a normal teenager and she was isolating into her room like all the other 13 year olds. She was not doing well in school because of the pandemic. She was not taking showers because she was being difficult. She had little energy and felt like giving up because she couldn’t see her friends. I told them this was all normal and made excuses for the changes we were all seeing.

Symptoms of depression include feeling hopeless, helpless, and having little interest in things that give pleasure. Symptoms are also trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. People have a change in personality and may start isolating. They may have trouble with concentration and it may affect work or school. Adolescents can be irritable and this may be a time where they may want to try drugs to help them feel better. They self medicate with drugs or alcohol.

The day I realized my daughter was depressed came a month later. She had gone to the mall with a friend and bought a vape pen. The vape pen was a nutraceutical and it did not contain any tobacco/nicotine. I found it on a receipt. I was horrified this could be my daughter. I raised her to know substance abuse would not be accepted. I asked for her to hand it to me. She did and it had not even been opened. I could not understand how she could even buy this. I am a psychiatrist who works in addiction. She knew better, didn't she?

I realized then I had failed to see my daughter was asking for help. She was asking to feel better. She was looking for a way to self medicate and feel at her baseline. I had missed the signs of my own daughter’s depression. At that time, I decided to get her evaluated with her own psychiatric evaluation. She was diagnosed with depression and was started on Prozac. After a few weeks, she was no longer isolating and felt hopeful again. She was eating dinner with the family and fighting less with her brothers. Her grades started to improve and she had the motivation to take care of herself again.

I cannot believe I missed my own daughter’s depression. I missed the most important person in my life’s suffering. I am not alone and more teens are having issues with worsening depression and anxiety.

According to a recent national poll, nearly 50 percent of parents say their child or teen had shown signs of a new or worsening mental health condition during the pandemic.

  • 3 in 4 parents said COVID restrictions had affected their teen’s connections to friends.

Symptoms of teen depression

Signs that may indicate depression include:

  • Sudden bursts of anger coupled with irritability

  • Negative thinking

  • Extreme sensitivity to criticism

  • Feeling misunderstood

  • A drop in school grades, attendance or not doing homework

  • High-risk behaviors, such as using alcohol and drugs

  • A change in sleeping patterns or trouble sleeping

  • A change in eating habits, such as eating more or less than usual

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Withdrawal from family and friends

  • Any suicide talk should be taken seriously. Seek help immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or texting the Crisis Text Line by texting 'TALK' to 741741.

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