Twelve percent of female Canadians between the ages of 12 and 19 have experienced a major depressive episode. My daughter is one of them.
When she first came to me saying she felt a sadness she just couldn’t shake, I did what I think most parents do. I told her we’d get help. I booked an appointment with her family doctor and Googled the hell out of teenage depression.
There’s a lot of information out there: checklists and guides that tell you what to look for, what to say and what not to say. How to separate teenage angst from more serious mental health issues. When to get professional help and when medication or hospitalization may be required.
But there is very little information about what it’s like to live with a teenager who is severely depressed. Or how to parent them. Parents, I discovered, rarely talk about what they’re going through, unless behind closed doors.
I get it. It’s not easy and there’s the real risk that by sharing our own challenges, we may make our kids feel worse than they already do.
But lately, I’ve been thinking us parents need to start talking, because things are getting worse for our kids in Canada. Hospitalizations have increased. Emergency room visits have increased. Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world.
We need to speak up if we want to try to fix this mental health crisis Canada is experiencing. And I believe, there is no one more motivated, more experienced, or more suited to finding solutions than parents who have been through it.
If you had asked me three years ago if I felt our health care, our culture, our country — if I was adequately equipped to raise happy, healthy kids — I would have said yes. In an instant.
I was so wrong. I didn’t know what depression looked like or how powerful a force it was. I had no idea how long it took to get help that actually helps, or how to manage my own emotions and my own mental health.
I’ve learned a lot since then. Mostly about myself, but also about my kids, about the importance of actively fostering mental wellness, the effect of technology in our lives, our health care system, parenting and more. I am stronger and grateful for my lessons learned.
I am also, I know, incredibly lucky. My daughter is doing really well these days. It wasn’t always that way, so believe me when I say, it does get better.