Thursday, 13 September 2012

R U OK? Are your kids OK too?

Are you ok?

If you were to ask me that question today my answer would involve frumpiness, pimples and the need for a holiday. But I would be grateful that you took the time to ask me.

However, this post isn't about how I'm feeling. It's about remembering to ask our kids if they are OK too.

I wanted to tell you the story of Random Boy. My soon to be 10 year old son.

Imagine your 8 year old baby telling you that he wanted to kill himself. 

What the hell was I meant to feel? 
Was he serious? 
Was he just wanting attention? 
Should I ignore it and hope that he is just being silly? 
Should I go over the top and go all out to get him help?

The first time he said it I think I was too shocked to respond to him with anything more than a "don't be silly".

Behind the scenes I was freaking the hell out!

You see, Random Boy and PrincessBF have inherited a susceptibility to depression from their father. (Their father is not Mr Hausfrau but that's a story for another day)

Their fathers side of the family has a long history of depression.

He (their father) has battled with times of depression through out his life and tends to bottle everything up. He had suicidal thoughts. He tried antidepressants for a little while but decided that they were not for him.

His mother has been clinically depressed for a very very long time and has been on antidepressants since her marriage failed almost 40 years ago. Her side of the family tree is also full of a history of depression and suicide. 

He has 3 sisters. Lets call them S1, S2 and S3.

S2 killed herself 23 years ago when her marriage failed.
S3 found her and has not been the same ever since. She is in and out of a mental health hospital constantly and has tried to take her own life more times than I can remember.
S1 took her own life 4 years ago after years of depression and prescription substance abuse.

Random Boys father helped to conceive a baby boy 22 years ago who he had nothing to do with (at the mothers request) until the mother sought help from the Red Cross to find him when the boy was 15 as he was showing signs of depression. She remembered that there was a family history of depression as the baby was conceived not long after S2 killed herself.

So, as you can see, I had big reasons to be worried about the mental health of Random Boy when at the age of 8 he started talking about killing himself. (Of course I worry about PrincessBF too but she is too much like me!)

So what to do??? Ignore it? No. I wanted to deal with this early! I went to see my Doctor who put RB on a mental health plan and off we went to see a counsellor who specialised in children's mental health.

She was great. She was able to help RB find ways to redirect his thoughts when he was angry. To go and "cool down" instead of destroying his room or lashing out at me. It didn't always work but there was a huge improvement.

 RB has always been an emotional kid. More emotional than me with bad PMS! 

The good thing with RB is that he is has always been able to tell me how he is feeling.

Quite often he will tell me "I'm very angry right now because....." or "I'm angry now but I don't know why".

If we fight and he behaves bad or he says something not nice he will always come out later and say "Mami I'm sorry for being angry (etc etc)".

We still have our bad days. He occasionally still says he wants to kill himself. We talk about what's making him feel that way and how we can help fix it.

I'm not so scared any more. I do worry. I know that this will be something that will raise it's ugly head from time to time. I make sure that I try to communicate with him as much as possible and if something is worrying or upsetting him or if he is angry about something I try to get him to see the bigger picture or more positive side. I don't want something little to send him spiralling into depression as it did with his fathers family.

All I can do for now is be there for him and tell him every day that I love him.


If your child or a child that you know needs to talk to someone but doesn't want to confide in you make the suggestion of  Kids Help Line. Kids Helpline is a free, 24 hour counselling service for young people aged 5-25 years. Counselling is offered by phone, email and over the web. They care. They listen. Click here to find out more

Gemma from My Big Nutshell is hosting R U OK?DAY Blogger Stories of Inspiration. Be sure to pop over and have a read.

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  1. How incredibly difficult for you. I have a very similar situation with a close family member, but could not begin to imagine the worry that would rack my body if it were one of my children. One think my family members psych has told us is that sometimes suicidal thoughts are just a coping mechanism, in the same way some people have a flight reflex. That in recognising it early, as you've done so well, you can learn to work through those thoughts before they get to a stage of being concerning. It sounds as though you're both doing such a great job, I hope your son continues to progress as well as he is now.

    1. Thank you very much :)
      I know he doesn't really mean it and totally understand what your family members psych means. Similar to when a child lashes out with a "I hate you" - they don't really hate you. They just hate that you're saying no to something or making them do something they don't want to do... But yes I think that catching this early was definitely the best thing to do. I wanted him to learn how to deal with small problems and stresses early as I didn't want for him to have something small trigger depression in later life and for him not to know how to deal with it.

    2. I guess at the end of the day, much the same as my situation, it doesn't matter how much you understand the issue it's still incredibly difficult to hear a loved one say those words. Same as the "i hate you" scenario. Such a special relationship that he's able to talk to you so openly, as hard as it is. Much love.

  2. That sounds really tough, but at the same time reassuring that you are aware of potential issues and being proactive about it. My older brother attempted suicide 13 years ago, dad found him and younger brother saved his life. Although my brother still lives, this is something I don't think our family will ever completely recover from. It's heartbreaking, even today.

    On another note, last night my 22yr old son text me to ask if I was ok... in the spirit of RUOK day. He was a very challenging child and as an adult is such a blessing! :-)


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