Recently, there has been growing concern about the mental health of Hong Kong’s youth.
Depression is one of the illnesses much discussed, and we should not overlook its impact.
Patients with depression have a prolonged low mood, loss of interest in everything, fatigue and lack of energy.
They also suffer from changes in sleeping and eating habits.
They are more prone to self-hatred and guilt.
In severe cases, they might find life meaningless and have thought about death or suicide.
Depressed children might have difficulty voicing their feelings, and they might display an irritable mood rather than a depressed mood. The younger the patients are, the higher the chance that they have shown signs of a bad temper.
They might skip classes and extracurricular activities because of a loss of motivation.
Children might also have more physical symptoms, such as headache, dizziness and digestive problems, but usually these are left unaccounted for after health checks by doctors.
The reasons for developing depression vary among patients and each case is complex.
Three kinds of factors — underlying factors, inducing factors and contributing factors — give rise to the illness.
Genetics, upbringing and certain personality traits form the underlying causes.
Children or teenagers with parents or family members suffering from depressive disorder have a two to three times higher chance of getting it.
Those who have an overly protected, neglected or abused childhood or are overly stressed or stubborn are also more likely to become victims of the illness.
When patients who already have a higher chance of depression due to underlying factors experience high pressure at school or in life, the situation can get worse.
In addition, when contributing factors, such as negative thinking, a poor interpersonal network, weak adaptability and problem-solving skills, are in place, low spirits tend to ferment, and depression might emerge.
If parents and educators can provide timely support to high-risk teenagers, they are more likely to be able to beat depression amid adversity.
No doubt, parents care a great deal about their children; however, they need the right approach to help depressed children.
First, they should try to get to know their sons’ and daughters’ inner thoughts by gently inviting them to share them if they are troubled by anything.
Parents could start by uttering their concerns and observations; for example, they have noticed a drop in appetite or poor sleep in their child.
Patiently listening to your kids will do the trick, and don’t be too keen to make suggestions before having listened to their whole story.
A good parent-child relationship is an important asset.
Parents and children should spend more time together enjoying meals and doing sports. Moms and dads can also meet their children’s friends.
Teachers are also key sources of support. Many teenagers have recalled that they reached out for help in the first place because of encouragement from their teachers.
Students will be willing to open up when their teachers provide them with adequate time and privacy.
Dr. Cheryl So Yuk-chi, senior clinical psychologist at Kwai Chung Hospital, is the co-author of this article.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 13.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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