Turning to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is one of the best ways to combat depression in children according to the Women’s Conference talk, “Into the Sunshine: Understanding Depression in Children and Teens.”
Nicki Hopwood and Tom Golightly taught parents how to help their children overcome depression. Hopwood has a master’s degree in counseling and has worked with troubled teenagers and adolescents for nearly 30 years, and Golightly holds a doctrate in counseling psychology.
Hopwood, who suffered from depression due to childhood abuse, said that her experience taught her things that couldn’t be learned from a textbook. She is acutely aware of how important strong relationships are for children.
“The best thing a depressed kid can have is an aware parent,” she said.
Parents need to listen to a depressed child and bring them hope, caring and a sense of safety. They need to build a child’s confidence and help them understand their feelings. Above all else, a parent needs to educate their child about depression.
One of the main reasons children become depressed is because of a drastic change in their lives. A loss of someone close to them, a move to a new town or some other form of trauma will change the way an adolescent’s brain develops and make him or her more susceptible to depression.
People might be depressed if they have trouble making decisions, have low self-esteem, start neglecting their appearance, are irritable or experience appetite or sleep changes. It is easier to recognize depression in males because females tend to internalize their feelings.
Suicide in Utah is above the national average. Golightly said the Latter-day Saint culture of trying to be perfect can be harmful to a developing child’s self-esteem. Parents need to clarify that God loves all his children, even when they make mistakes. He emphasized the importance of breaking the social stigma depression has so that families can start dealing with it.
Both speakers emphasized the importance of relying on Heavenly Father during times of depression and that God gives his children trials so that they may grow. Special attention was given to D&C 122:7, which reads, “… Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”
According to Hopwood, “The worst thing we’ve ever done is make depression a mental health issue. People don’t want to admit they’re crazy.” She said medication is very useful in most cases. She compared depression to diabetes. In both cases the body isn’t producing a vital chemical, and medication will give the body what it needs.
When Hopwood was depressed, she said she had difficulty connecting with people and felt as though nobody could see the real her. She wrote a song about her experience escaping depression, which ends with, “I’ll stand, I will fly, I’ll be me, I’ll be free, and the world once again will see me.”