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Signs your child is struggling with mental health issues

9Honey logo 9Honey 6 days ago Jock Lehman
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When people ask me about my experience with depression, I like to say that it feels like I had picked up a woollen hat, doused it in the coldest water you could possibly imagine and pulled it over my head. 

Not just over my head but over my eyes and ears and nose and mouth.

The hat would get smaller and smaller, and though I would try and speak through it, my mouth would just be filled by the wool of the hat and the bitter taste of the water.

If I tried to pull the hat off it would grow even tighter.

This hat wouldn’t let me think.

This hat gave me a view of the world that wasn’t real, but was as terrifying as could possibly be.

The only problem with this hat was that nobody else could see it.

That’s the scary thing. 

It’s different to where there are sore throats and coughs and fevers to help concerned parents decide that cough medicine is going to be better for the flu rather than a band aid.

I should start out by saying that I’m not a mental health professional. I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist or counsellor, I’m just somebody who’s had a rough time with a mental illness and has been lucky enough to make it through the other side.

Anybody who experiences a mental illness is going to respond to it differently, and that’s what makes it so difficult to detect.

For some it’s going to be blatantly obvious to their parents and friends that they’re struggling and need help. For others, they may wake up every morning and go to sleep each night without anybody suspecting anything in the hours in between.

It is a tragic and often heard phrase in the days following one of the 2800 suicides a year in Australia, that “Nobody would have picked it”.

Having been through an experience with depression and suicide and having seen friends go through it themselves, I’ve come to understand some of the warning signs that might indicate that a young person is struggling with a mental illness.

I know how difficult it was and how sometimes hopeless it felt for my parents during my illness, and I hope that this is able to help some others who don’t know what to look for, and that it might help them realise that things can get better.

Look out for is significant changes in behaviour

It’s different for everybody, but for me, I stopped talking. I withdrew. Every morning I woke up thinking the same things. Why I was a bad son, a bad friend and brother. Why I was a burden to my family and why my friends hated it when they saw me.

Every day I would wake up and relish in those three seconds in the morning where I couldn’t remember who or what I was. I preferred to feel nothing. I became so anxious that even constructing a sentence seemed impossible.

I became quieter and quieter until on Christmas Day of that year, the only things I said during the entire day were “Good morning Mum” and “Merry Christmas”.

Sleeping a lot more than usual

I would turn to sleep as an escape from the torment of being me. I felt nothing when I slept, and I preferred it that way.

If someone is retreating to their room for long periods or withdrawing from their friends and family, this could be an indication that they are struggling. I would refuse invitations from my friends because the thought of simple conversation was too terrifying and because I thought that they would have a better time without me.

Eating habits might change as well.

For me I would often refuse meals; I didn’t think I deserved my dad’s nice cooking. Good food was for good people, and in my mind, I was the worst person I could possibly imagine. I couldn’t concentrate on simple things like reading, and so my grades suffered.

Things I used to enjoy and things that would make me laugh simply didn’t anymore. Movies and jokes which had previously made my stomach hurt from laughter would all just blur into one grey haze of how I didn’t deserve any of it.

I should point out that depression is different to feeling sad. To feel sad is normal and healthy and a human response to a bad situation. But sadness should only be temporary.

Sadness fades.

Depression is where the emptiness prolongs beyond days into weeks and months and there is simply no relief from it.

It can get better

The exciting and comforting thing is, it can get better. My parents recognised the change in me and because of them I sought help.

I loved being able to see my psychologist when I was sick and services like Headspace are making treatment for mental health accessible for young people who are having a rough time. 

I still have moments where I can feel that woollen hat trying to creep down past my ears, and if that happens, I make sure I surround myself with the people I love.

I talk about my experience with depression with anybody who wants to talk about it, because nobody should have to go through what I did and because I’m not ashamed of what happened. In fact I’m very proud of myself, for coming from the point where even the thought of getting out of bed in the morning was almost impossible to standing here now and saying that I matter, and that I am happy.

And that I deserve to be.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Pictures: 50 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to Your Kids

<p>Erase these common phrases from your vocabulary.</p> 50 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to Your Kids

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