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A Letter to Parents Who Have a Child With Depression

08/08/2016 09:20 | Updated 08 August 2016
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thriving families

Dear Parent,

We know that things are really tough for you right now. Perhaps your child has just been diagnosed with depression, or maybe they've had it for a while. They might not really be a child any more, they might be a teen, a young adult, or maybe even a fully-fledged grown-up, but they're still your child.

The first thing we want you to know is that your child's depression is absolutely not your fault. There is almost certainly nothing you could have done to prevent it. Depression is an illness and anyone can develop it, even if they have no family history of mental illness and no apparent environmental triggers. It is not your fault.

You are not alone in this. Statistically, three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. Look at that on a country-wide scale, and there are thousands of parents up and down the country who are facing similar challenges to you; who are wondering what to do or say and who are worried about doing or saying the wrong things. We know it's hard, but we want to reassure you that you aren't doing or saying the wrong things, because you care, and so long as you care about and love your child, you're doing okay. You are not alone.

There is no shame in having a child with depression. Seriously, there is nothing to be ashamed about. When something in our body stops working, we get diagnosed with a physical illness. When something in our mind stops working, we get diagnosed with a mental illness. The only difference is the word before illness. There is no shame in having a child with depression.

Medication is not a failure. Sometimes depression can be treated without medication, sometimes it can't. If your child needs to go on anti-depressants, it doesn't mean that you love them any less or that you should or could have done anything differently. It just means they're poorly, and that they need some help. It's just another weapon in their fight against their illness. Medication is not a failure.

You need to look after yourself, and be kind to yourself. It's tough looking out for someone who's ill; it can take a lot of energy and brain space. You are important, you deserve kindness, and you deserve time to breathe. You're allowed to have some 'time off', you're allowed to collapse in front of the TV, and you're allowed to spend time with your friends. It's really important that you give yourself this time; in the same way that you should always put your own oxygen mask on before helping someone else with theirs; you have got to look after your own mental health when caring for someone with a mental illness. You can't look after someone else 24/7 and expect your own mental health to remain intact. You need to look after yourself.

You do not need to be perfect. You don't need a degree in counselling to support your child. You just need to listen; listening to them can mean the world, and a hug can be very welcome. It might be tricky to talk in person; it might be easier to text or email, that's absolutely okay. You don't need to spend a huge amount of money trying to cheer them up. You don't need to go on extravagant trips or spend your life trying to distract them from their thoughts. You just need to be there. You do not need to be perfect.

There is support out there, and it's okay to use it, many people do; if nobody ever needed or used it, it wouldn't exist. Your GP can listen to your worries and help you get any help you might need, YoungMinds run a parents helpline, and your local carers centre might be able to offer some support. If your child is accessing mental health services, their team might be able to help you to help your child. There is support out there and you don't need to struggle alone.

We want you to know that you are doing okay. We want you to know that your best is good enough. We want you to know that you matter, too.

This blog first appeared on the Blurt Foundation site, and can be read here

The Blurt Foundation exists to make a difference to anyone affected by depression. They raise awareness, provide tools and knowledge to help proactive recovery and challenge the stigma that prevents people reaching out for help

This summer The Huffington Post UK is spearheading an initiative helping families thrive, with a focus on parent wellbeing, the challenges facing stay-at-home and working parents, friendships and navigating the landscape of modern parenting beyond the 2.4. To kickstart the campaign, Jamie Oliver guest edited the site, bringing a focus on feeding healthy families.

We'll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #ThrivingFamilies and we'd like you to do the same. If you'd like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com to get involved.

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