Health & Living
Depression in Children: A silent killer
Posted Thursday, January 10 2013 at 00:00
It has been three years now, but the Kisitu's are still finding it hard to come to terms with the death of their only daughter, the first of only two children they had in 13 years of marriage.
The mother keeps blaming herself for the death of her child as does the father, something which has affected their marriage. None of them saw it coming.
Evelyn Kisitu was only 13 years old when she committed suicide, a fact the Kisitu's don’t want to hear at all. To them, their daughter “died” but “did not kill herself” although a post mortem report indicates so.-
According to one of Evelyn’s peers, she was a quiet girl who interacted little with others. A bright introverted girl, she was more of a recluse after school time, who seemed like she was going through a hard time at home, even though her parents provided for her every material need.
“She had nearly everything that most of us [friends] would have liked to have as children,” recalls another friend of the deceased, adding that, but she was always sad, had lost interest in activities that children of her age enjoy, and towards the time of her death, had started losing weight.
This, her friends could tell, but the parents could not until the day they found her dead in her bed after she had taken an overdose of drugs, which according to the post mortem report, were not prescribed by a doctor. She was not suffering from any illness at the time.
Although she previously had a history of autism, which is a failure to develop social abilities, language and other communication skills to the usual level during her infancy, her situation had since changed and was coping easily with her age mates at the time of her death.
“I was told only three days to her death, by my neighbour, a doctor, that my daughter could be suffering from depression. But because of our schedule we did not take it seriously since none of us had ever been diagnosed with any acute disorder,” her mother recalls.
Simply put, Evelyn succumbed to depression, a form of mental illness that is on the rise amongst children in the country due the poor standards of living, poverty and school curriculum load, among other social and societal afflictions.
However, unlike other perceptible and fairly easily treatable illnesses or disorders that children suffer from, depression is rising rather fast because parents do not take the time to monitor their children’s everyday growth while on the other hand, little education about the mental disorder has been offered.
Last year, during the World Mental Health Day back in November, the principal focus was put on the rising figures of depression in children feasibly put at 70 per cent because in an environment where the illness has not been given attention, aggregate statistics can hardly be arrived at.
What is depression?
According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Health, an online medical journal, depression is a mood disorder characterised by either sadness or loss of interest in pleasurable activities accompanied by at least four additional symptoms drawn from a list which may include changes in appetite or weight, or in sleep and psychomotor activity, decreased energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty in thinking, concentrating or making decisions, recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation/ plans/ attempts.
In children and adolescents, one’s mood may seem more irritable or cranky as opposed to being sad or of a depressed nature. The child may also feel that life is hopeless, could be discouraged or “down in the dumps”.
In noting the causes of depression, the journal indicates that children are faced by different psychosocial stressors within the environment. However, from a bio psychosocial perspective, these psychosocial stressors could be biological, psychological and social.
It states: “Every child has the resources necessary to deal with these stressors. A breakdown in these resources, say failure for one to cope adequately, results into depression or depressive symptoms. Stressors include death of a parent, divorce, poor grades, and bullying, low self-esteem, among others.