I think it’s important for kids to feel their friends won’t reject them if they know the truth. Sharing the “pain” helps all people; lightens the burden for the afflicted child and hopefully teaches compassion and removes the stigma of mental illness for everyone else.
The charismatic adult
What makes the depressed child better? Prozac, yes, but oh, so much more– love, hope, patience, perseverance, talk. And then there is the “charismatic adult” that I have since read is critical for the successful treatment of depressed children. For my son, this person was his second psychiatrist. It was this doctor who was able to reach his limbic sick soul. It was he who whispered to my son that other people were holding me as I dangled from the tight rope, he was not responsible for any of it, he was a truly good person, and no one was going to let me fall dead– all this as they played Bart Simpson games on the computer in the weekly hour.
A faithful companion
What more can you– the helpless parent– do to help? Find your child a friend close in age, a Robert. Robert was the laid back, 15 year old friend of a neighbor’s son, looking for work after school. I hired Robert to watch cartoons with my son in the afternoons as he lay fixed on the couch, as I could not sit still from my horror at the sight. At first, they watched cartoons in silence, as my son would not talk, and then Robert began to bring video games, and they began to play together. Many weeks later, I cried with joy the day I first overheard my son laughing with Robert in the next room. Robert never pushed, never demanded, just took my son for who he was at the moment. He came to be my son’s faithful companion for six years of otherwise doomed loneliness and isolation. And it was Robert who opened my eyes to my son’s recovery, the day he got mad at me for treating my son like he was sick at 17, and he yelled at me, “Can’t you see, he’s not depressed anymore?” And I saw instantly that he was right, knowing that he spoke with the insight of one who watched my son and cartoons through endless dark afternoons.
Well managed, not eliminated
Things have turned out extremely well for us. Our son is preparing to leave for college following extraordinary accomplishments in most areas of high school life. We primarily credit his school for his remarkable recovery because the school head was so clear in wanting him back and in providing open communications with the entire faculty. Talking things over was always available to him and he vented his frustrations on several occasions. In turn, the faculty was always honest with us so that we knew where we stood with the school. His classmates were very welcoming so no stigma hampered his progress. This unusual clarity helped to reduce our son’s stress and to eliminate our fears. It was unclear whether medication was helpful so he stopped using it after the first year but he continued the talk therapy for several years. We consider his depression as well managed rather than eliminated. It is not preventing his enjoyment of life nor affecting any of his plans. He can recognize the onset of depression and offsets it by getting more sleep, working out and talking with friends.