Having a parent who is struggling with depression can be a very tricky situation. You may find that your mom or dad just don’t seem to have any energy, they cry a lot, seem to be irritable and snap at you often. Maybe he/she just seems ‘absent’ and ‘far away’. It is really difficult to understand what is going on, especially when you need their help with things, or would simply like to spend some time with them and it feels really difficult to get closer as a family.
The first thing that will help everyone get through this a bit easier is to get some information on depression and what it is. Understanding all the signs and symptoms of depression will help you to identify when your mom, or dad’s behaviour is because of the depression or some other reason. It is often easier to tolerate an irritable, absent parent when you can understand why they are behaving the way they are. It might also be helpful to take this information to your other parent and talk to them about anything that doesn’t make sense or that feels confusing.
Once you have all the information about what depression is, you may also find some information on how to deal with it. It is also a good idea to take all this information and talk to the parent that is struggling with depression. Show them that you have an understanding of what is happening for them, but spend some time also sharing your experience of their struggle. It may be helpful for the whole family to talk about the effects that depression is having on everyone. For the parent that is feeling depressed, it will help to feel supported and understood and perhaps motivate them into seeking help and getting better when they realise they are not the only person struggling.
When depression becomes something that you can all talk about freely, then it opens up the possibility of the whole family supporting one another and working through the difficult time. In this sense, it really is important to realise that depression is not something that only affects the person struggling with it, but will have an impact on the entire family. If you are feeling sad, frustrated or angry about your mom or dad being depressed, then this is a very normal and reasonable response to have.
It is important that you have someone you can talk to about this – whether it is a sibling or your other parent. And if you feel like you can’t talk to any of them, then you should ask to speak to a Psychologist. Looking after yourself is very important. It is easy to get swept away with needing to look after the ‘sick’ parent, but it is important that you are looking after yourself too. That means ensuring that your needs are met and speaking to someone if you feel like they are not.
Make sure you get some time out to do fun things and get out. It is important that you carry on socialising and getting involved with activities through school or private clubs. Doing a sport and getting exercise is also a really good way of blowing off some steam. Essentially it is important that the whole family is enlisted in looking after itself and getting some time out to just laugh and play together.