Parenting a child who is struggling with depression is stressful. It can be even more so for certain people “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” ―
Although Black people in America have the same prevalence of mental illness as other demographics, there is stigma in the African-American community towards these conditions. This might lead to shame and unwillingness to ask for or receive support. “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!” ―
The fact is, though, mental health is a part of a person’s overall wellbeing. Just as a person who has caught a bug or who has a broken bone benefits from medical intervention and familial (and community) support, so does someone with any mental illness, including depression. It is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
Because of cultural norms, caring for a son with mental illness may be different from caring for a daughter. While teen girls and women are far more likely to develop conditions like depression (perhaps due to societal pressures, low self-esteem and other issues), boys are often taught by society that being emotional is a feminine trait, and a sign of weakness. This may make it harder for them to open up to medical professionals and even family members who are trying to support them.
“What happens when people open their hearts?”
“They get better.”
The point to note here is that every person is individual, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with mental illness. As the father, you need to be as supportive as possible and guide your child along the path of wellness that is right for them.
Support for your child does not end when they are no longer a child, though. As they enter adulthood and take on more responsibilities for themselves, you can still help. Whether they’re starting higher education or entering the work world, this is a tremendous change in a person’s life. At times, conditions like depression may make it difficult to navigate through these situations. Without being overbearing, check in with your child. Let them know you’re willing to be a listening ear.
You can help them with chores so that they are able to focus on their own mental health, or just know that they have someone who loves them to share the burden of life.
No matter your child’s stage in life, though, it is crucial that you make sure you don’t neglect yourself. Yes, your child needs your support, but if you burn yourself out or trigger depression in yourself, you will be less equipped to provide that support. Make time to do the things you enjoy, find relaxation methods such as breathing exercises and physical activity, and spend time with friends.
Raising a child with any mental illness, especially without the help of their mother, is a tremendous burden. However, it is possible and—above all else—rewarding.