My son was 17 when I first noticed a change in his behavior. He became apathetic and disengaged but the school psychologist couldn’t diagnose anything. It seemed like typical teenage stuff until a few months later he began suffering from insomnia, lack of appetite, and severe headaches. Things got progressively worse as he started isolating himself and crying for no reason. His social life suffered and he began skipping school and missing assignments. With the drop in his grades, he was let go from the varsity soccer team and that only worsened his sadness. This was more than just teenage angst, there was something much deeper going on here.

I can’t explain the devastation that a mother feels at watching her child suffer in this way and feeling helpless to stop it.

While my friend’s children were applying for colleges, getting scholarships, and starting exciting new chapters in their lives, my son sunk deeper and deeper into his sadness. Eventually, he was diagnosed with clinical depression, that’s where our journey began.

I watched helplessly as my son endured one painful loss after another. All of his dreams, hopes, and plans, even his friends fell away as he struggled to get through each day. I remember sitting outside of his counselors office waiting for him to come out of each session. I would wait there just hoping for a breakthrough, that the light would return to his eyes. I just wanted to see him get better and reclaim his zeal for life. That didn’t happen. Instead, this sullen boy emerged from each session. I barely recognized him. What happened to my son? Where was that sweet, energetic, sensitive, boy, who was once so full of life?

I would knock on his bedroom door to wake him up and plead with him to get out of bed and go to school. I would ask him not to lock his door because I was afraid of what he might do. I would call and check in on him several times each day because I was horrified at the thought that he might harm himself. It was a nightmare.

Photo: CBS News

Nearly four years later and the clouds are finally starting to clear. My son is in college now, working on his degree. He found a major that he likes, and little by little, he’s beginning to reclaim his life. With treatment, prayer, and support, my son has made significant progress. We’re still not entirely sure what, if anything, triggered my son’s depression but seeking professional help was key to his progress.

Depression is real, and it can happen to anyone. J.K Rowling, Brooke Shields, Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen Wilson and Jon Hamm are just a few notable figures who have suffered from depression. It doesn’t matter your race, gender, age, social status, or culture-depression doesn’t discriminate. According to Healthline, there are more than 300 million people globally who are suffering from depression. One in four people will be affected by depression at some point in their lives.

Photo: healthline.com

Because of the stigma around depression, only 48 percent of sufferers seek help. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, weakness, and vulnerability, can create walls of silence, harmful self-medicating, and the perpetuation of these habits from one generation to the next.

Depression is an illness, not a weakness.

We have to change our view of what depression is. We need to start talking about it.

If you think that your child is suffering from depression, here are some common symptoms:

  • extreme irritability over minor things
  • anxiety and restlessness
  • anger management issues
  • loss of interest in favorite activities
  • fixation on the past or on things that have gone wrong
  • thoughts of death or suicide
  • Physical symptoms include:
  • insomnia or sleeping too much
  • debilitating fatigue
  • increased or decreased appetite
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • unexplained aches and pains

If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from depression, get help at your local mental health treatment center.  If you think someone is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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