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Help and Advice for Parents and Carers - Depression and Self-harm

How do I know if my child is depressed? 

Warning signs of depression:

  • Changes in mood

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Feeling of worthlessness or guilt

  • Irregular sleep / Insomnia

  • Decreased Energy

  • Tearfulness 

  • Persistent sad, anxious or sad mood

  • Restlessness 

  • Difficulty making decisions

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

  • Changes in appetite and weight

What can I do if my child is showing signs of depression? 
  • Keep family routines as normal as possible

  • Provide them with self-help info they can read through in private, at their own pace

  • Make time to have a chat with your son/daughter, make sure to make only statements that are facts not judgements

  • Ask open questions which will give them the opportunity to share their feelings

  • Keep your own anxiety to yourself - don't show them that you are anxious about them as that may stop them from sharing

  • Write it down before you say it and keep it simple

  • If you think they are at risk of hurting themselves or suicide, call 111 and explain the situation immediately

  • It might be worth talking to their teacher too but make sure you tell your child you will be doing this. 

Where can we get help with depression? 

There is a lot of help available and Google is often a good place to start. Your child does not need to have been diagnosed with depression to access them, many are freely available to anyone. 

Young Minds

  Parent Helpline  0808 802 5544

Childline - support for your child, if they are ready to speak to someone get them to call 0800 111111

YMCA Dialogue - offer free 1-2-1 counselling for children and young people. Call 01273 320500 - online counselling for children and young people - help to support a bereaved child

Samaritans - Call 116 123

NHS - Call 111

What is self-harm? 

Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. It's usually a way of coping with or expressing overwhelming emotional distress.

It can be related to thoughts of suicide but the intention is more often to punish themselves, express their distress or relieve unbearable tension. By young people it is often used to manage difficult emotions and there can be a variety of reasons.

Self-harm can also be a cry for help, common forms of self-harm are: 

  • Cutting skin

  • Burning skin

  • Hitting or bruising 

  • Intentionally taking too little or too much medication

  • Taking an overdose

  • Hanging 

  • Suffocation

Supporting your child that self-harms
  • Asking if there is anything worrying them, don't bring up self-harm immediately but ask how they are feeling.

  • Don't let self-harm become the focus of your relationship with them! 

  • Assure them that you are not judging them but love them which will not change

  • Show them that you want to listen to what they have to say

  • If they don't want to talk ask if they can text you, email you or write it down for you

  • Ask if they would rather speak to someone else (counsellor)

  • See if together you can work out the triggers for self-harming and come up with alternatives (see a list of suggestions below)

  • Help them think through their problems and help them to come up with a possible solution

  • Help them to think about their future and how things may change

Alternatives to self-harm for releasing tension: 

  • Exercise is great for mental health too but it can be difficult to motivate young people to get active

  • Try clenching an ice cube until it melts

  • Snapping an elastic band against the wrist instead of cutting

  • Drawing on the skin instead of cutting

  • Use a punch bag or punch a pillow

  • Music

  • Drawing, painting or writing

  • Keeping a diary to capture thoughts and feelings, writing these down can be a form of release

  • Having a bath

  • Get out of the house, maybe go for a walk or a bike ride

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