Depression and low mood

Messages to parents and carers

Parents and carers (for example when under aged and not living at home) often played a big part in young people’s lives and experiences with depression. They often worried a lot for their children and found it difficult to know how to best help them. Here, young people pass on their messages to parents, carers and others who may want to know how to best support people going through difficult times with depression or low mood.

“Be there for us”

Most of all, young people wanted their parents, carers or other close adults to be present and “to be there” for them, if and when they wanted to talk. For parents to show their care and concern was important and reassuring. Many people emphasised that even if they didn’t always react to their parents’ expression of concern, it didn’t mean they hadn’t noticed and been reassured by it.
People also hoped for their parents to be patient and to give them time. They said that if they knew their parents were willing and able to support them, they would go to them when they felt ready. They didn’t want to be “pushed” or “forced” as it only made them withdraw. It was important to young people that the choice of how and when to rely on parents, was theirs. Even when people had come to a point where they were able to receive help and to start getting better, they wanted their parents to realise that changing things could take a long time and not put pressure on them to change overnight.
“Don’t patronise us”
 
Being treated with respect was important to young people. They said parents getting angry or upset about their low mood or self-harm, for example, wasn’t helpful, but just made young people feel worse. They felt better able to trust and respond when their parents were “calm”, “open” and “honest” with them. One woman pointed out that building open communication in the family was a long process and something which needed to be put in place very early on. She said then she could feel safe to speak to her parents about anything.
Young people also suggested that their parents tried to appreciate what they were going through by putting themselves in young people’s position. They simply said that treating them the way parents would’ve wanted to be treated themselves was the best way forward.

“Accept the problem – don’t judge”
Some people said it had been hard for their parents to accept their children were going through difficult experiences or found it hard to admit they had mental health problems. However, for parents to accept that there was a problem, was really important for young people as it made them feel “validated” and that they were “taken seriously”. Some said that “denying” the problem, or “underestimating” constant low moods as “a typical teenage thing” could allow things to progress and get worse. “Shouting”, “getting angry” or belittling the problems worked against young people’s best interest.
Some young people said it didn’t help if parents were trying to find someone to “blame” or to be “guilty”. It was important for young people to be able to feel that experiencing depression or low mood was okay and acceptable, and not their fault. Some worried about opening up to their parents because they felt their parents might blame themselves, which young people felt didn’t help the situation.
 
A couple of young people said their parents had always been “a step ahead” and very much attuned to what was going on. They said their parents had realised things weren’t right before they did. Young people advised parents to be aware of mental health problems and to “keep an eye” on their children.

Last reviewed December 2013.

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