The National Institute of Mental Health gauged that almost 12.8 percent of teens in the U.S. have at least one serious episode of depression in their lives. Previous studies showed the mental health of those teens’ is related to depression in their parents or guardians.
New research suggests a flipside to the parental effect. If teen depression is treated, the mental health of the parents’ also improves.
Frequently we see depression as an individual affliction. However, psychiatry professor Myrna Weissman explains that Depression can affect the entire family.
Weissman’s studies have delved into family depression for years. They know there are high rates of the mental illness in the offspring if the mother is depressed.
As per previous studies, the flip situation is also right. When mothers treat their depression, the children feel better as well.
Kelsey Howard started this latest research when wondering if the reverse of the older study was true as well.
To find out, Howard and Mark Reinecke, her advisor, looked at 2008 data from a study showing over 300 teens receiving treatment for depression over a nine-month period. The study looked at those receiving either counseling, medication, or both.
Why This Study Happened and What it Tells Us About Depression in Teens and Their Parents
Researchers also surveyed a parent of each teen before and after the course for symptoms of ‘the blues’. Data showed about a quarter of parents experienced high levels of depression before the start of the treatment for their children. This past Saturday, Howard presented her research in San Francisco at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference.
Howard explains that the study found the symptoms of depression in the parents improved over the course of the study. The improvement, it turned out, associated with the progression of the children themselves over the course of time.
To Howard, the results were what she expected. Since humans are social, we live and work in social networks. Often, our well-being and lows come from these relationships.
In seeing their child struggle, parents can often have their mood affected. Inversely, if the child feels better, the parent’s attitude also lifts.
Improved mental health for the child can also enhance communication between the two which can help with parental “blues”.
The findings of this study could help with the suicidal thoughts and rates of ‘the blues’ among teens.
Psychology Professor at Vanderbilt University, Judy Garber, warns the findings don’t prove the changes in the parents’ mental health directly relates to the improvement in children. There could be other factors not considered at play.
Even so, the results achieved are encouraging. They can serve as a reminder that parents need to take their mental health seriously, particularly if their child is struggling as well.
Should you find your child having depression or other similar problems, it would follow as such that the parent examine their own mental state to see if there’s anything that they might need help with themselves. Support for one family member could help the others too.