Studies are on-going asking the same questions surrounding school-aged children and depression. Does bullying cause depression? Do children who are depressed actually attract bullies? While the results of the studies do remain inconclusive, they also call to attention the fact that parents must be proactive when hearing their children ask yet another question, “why am I depressed?” Before answering that question, they must first understand the basics behind the definition of the word.
“Depression affects feelings, thoughts, and physical well-being.” – Depression for Teens: a Guide for Parents
So, Why Am I Depressed?
When the very essence of depression in children who are bullied is broken down like that, in its basic form, it is easy to understand. When parents are bombarded with the medical jargon associated with the various reasoning behind and definitions of depression, that is when things become muddled and overwhelming. So, for the time being, focus is going to be placed on the basics so the underlying question, “why am I depressed,” can be addressed.
Children who showing the following signs and symptoms could already be experiencing depression:
- Agitation or restless, especially in a calm or mild-mannered child
- Anger, irritability, hostility
- Changes in sleeping and eating, like loss of weight, over-eating, insomnia, or excessive sleep
- Difficulty with focus and concentration
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness, especially in a previously confident child
- Frequent crying, over emotional, or tearfulness
- Hopelessness or sadness
- Lack of energy or fatigue, especially in a healthy child
- Lack of motivation or enthusiasm, especially in a previously achieving child
- Loss of interest in activities, including favorite activities like sports and clubs
- Thoughts of suicide or extra focus on or interest in death
- Withdrawal from family, friends, and best friends
So, Why Am I Depressed?
It is not uncommon for depression to be mistaken by school administrators and teachers as children having a bad attitude or acting out. This is especially true for teens that appear to be angry and disagreeable during classroom sessions, or during exchanges with their peers. The truth is that children and teens that are most vulnerable to bullying and the related social difficulties are most likely to develop depression as their peers begin rejecting them. The reason their peers begin rejecting them is because they do not want any attention on themselves, so they begin withdrawing from everyone using any means necessary in order to do so. If that means using negativity, then that is that is what they will do.
It is not a good idea to ignore teen depression or pass it off as something else. Instead, look for signs and be proactive:
- Drug and alcohol abuse: most teenagers will experiment with substances, but self-medicate. There is a big difference between experimenting and self-medicating. Parents need to keep a close eye on what their teens are doing, what they have, and any strange behaviors that may lead them to believe something more than experimentation is occurring.
- Internet addiction: teens will go online to escape real world problems, thus developing an Internet addition. Not only is this a problem, but it further increases their problem with isolation.
- Low self-esteem: it is important how a student views themselves – shameful, unworthy, ugly, failure – and words like these are cues toward how parents can tell. Lack of self-esteem leads to depression.
- Problems at school: depression causes problems at school including lack of energy, lack of focus, and concentration issues. Parents will see their children skipping school either more often or for the first time, they will see a drop in grades, and they will see frustration in school work that was once easy for their children.
- Reckless behavior: teens who are depressed are more likely to engage in reckless behavior such as unsafe sex, reckless driving, and excessive drinking.
If your child or your teen approaches you with the question, “why am I depressed,” and you have experienced any of the points listed above, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a counselor. They will help your been put their emotions into words while understanding what is going on if they are dealing with a bully. The counselor will also help your child change negative thinking patterns into positive ones, and develop a better self-esteem in the process. During the course of their sessions, they will also develop strategies for how to deal with tough life issues, including how to stand up to or better deal with bullies. These tools, as well as many others, will also be taught to parents during family sessions.