Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting in a room with a group of parents whose adolescent children suffer from depression. What touched me was how committed these men and women are to improving the lives of others by sharing their experiences in a very public way.
Rather than denying and hiding the mental illness in their families, these parents are accepting it and using it to help others. In so doing, they are making meaning out of their experience, healing their pain and growing as human beings.
And these extraordinary people know pain. As a result of teenage depression, 2 of the families lost their adolescent sons to suicide. Another set of parents spoke of how they intervened just in time to save the life of their son, whose depression caused him to overdose on alcohol and prescription drugs.
One of the mothers who lost her son to suicide said, “my son now belongs to the world.” Rather than remaining paralyzed by the devastating pain she experiences over her loss, she feels compelled to use her voice “to help others.”
Another family channeled their pain into the creation of a high school support group that is dedicated to increasing awareness of teenage depression and suicide. The group is called aevidum and empowers students to “shatter the shame surrounding the illness and save lives around the nation.”
The group’s website, www.aevidum.com, contains an excellent reference page devoted to recognizing the signs of teenage depression. These signs include:
- Physical changes
- Emotional pain
- Changes in thought patterns
- Changes in energy levels
- Difficult moods
The word aevidum was made up by the students and is based on the Latin root “vid” meaning “life.” It expresses care and concern for the well-being of another and translates into “I have your back.” By participating in this group, the students watch out for signs of depression among other students and see that proper care is given when it is detected.
Healing our families, our communities and ourselves from mental illness requires us to reach out and help each other. We can no longer afford to deny that mental illness exists and remain silenced by the social stigma surrounding it.
With proper education, elevated awareness and acceptance we can ensure that in the future no mother or father will have to experience the pain of losing a child to depression and suicide. If our teenage children can find a solution that starts in their schools, we can find a solution that starts in the hearts and minds of our families.