DEAR ABBY: I had an eye-opening experience last Sunday. Our 13-year-old son has always seemed fairly happy and well-adjusted. As we were about to leave for church, I looked at him and I could feel that something was not right. His face had a desperate look. I asked him, "Are you OK?" and that was all it took. My boy began sobbing and told me he'd been crying every night for the past two weeks. I knew he'd had some trouble sleeping, but I thought it was just growing pains.
I immediately began asking all kinds of questions -- and listened carefully to everything he said. I told him we would get him help the next day. Just the fact that I believed him and was willing to take action seemed to lift some of the burden he's been carrying around.
His father and I and both of his grandparents have all had problems with depression. The doctor later told our son how fortunate he is to have parents who don't minimize their children's feelings.
Abby, I cannot impress enough to parents the importance of paying attention to their children's moods and body language. In their own quiet way, kids try to tell you when something is wrong. Our sons and daughters are gifts to be cherished. If you sense something is wrong, KEEP ASKING! -- GRATEFUL MOTHER IN MINNESOTA
DEAR GRATEFUL MOTHER: Your son is also fortunate that because of your family history, you were sensitive to the signs of depression and recognized them for what they were. Depression also strikes people who have no family history.
Anyone, regardless of age, who experiences any five of the following symptoms for two weeks or more should consult a mental health professional:
(1) Feeling of sadness and/or irritability.
(2) Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
(3) Changes in weight and appetite.
(4) Changes in sleep patterns.
(5) Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless.
(6) Inability to concentrate, remember things or make decisions.
(7) Fatigue or loss of energy.
(8) Restlessness or decreased activity noticed by others.
(9) Thoughts of death or suicide.