The other day I was driving in my car listening to my favorite radio station when I heard something on the news about the rise of depression in children aged 12-17 years. As I care very much for children and see them as our future, this troubled me. It troubled me on many levels, not just for their safety and well being, but also because this was an indication that rather than finding and handling the cause of their depression, the new trend is to prescribe highly addictive psychotropic medications that have some very serious side effects. These include seizures, suicidal and homicidal thoughts, bouts of violence and, oddly enough, depression.
The children, teens and adults that I know that are on these medications tell me they hate being on them, but they don’t know what else to do. In fact, they have trouble sleeping, feel groggy, have cotton mouth and far more. They either gain massive amounts of weight, which makes them targets for the jokes of other children, or they become emaciated and cannot eat. Almost all who were on these drugs and have somehow gotten off them have gone on to do recreational drugs, buying their Ritalin and Adderall on the black market or have had to go through withdrawal processes to come off of them. Perhaps they switch over to more “adult” anti-depressants. Parents who are either threatened or are coerced into putting their children on these medications are seldom given the full and true data about them.
All of the above is fodder for debate – but whether or not to medicate is not the intended subject for this article. What this article about is depression in children. What is that really?
Depression is a Problem
Depression is a problem. It is that simple.
The definition of a problem is as follows: First, one has an intention to do something or to create a particular effect. A counter-intention to that intention then comes along opposing it. This stops the original intention and this “stop” then worries the person. The person now has a problem, and that seemingly “unsolvable” problem upsets the person — whether it be an adult or a child. The individual cannot sleep thinking about it, they don’t eat well, or they simply over-eat non-nutritious foods. This predisposes them to illness and injury. They are now tired, their bodies are hungry for nutrition and they live a worried life.
With their attention stuck on the problem, they do not pay full attention to their environment and accidents or illness occur. They become more and more sad, and eventually become apathetic.
That in a nutshell is depression. So with that definition in view, it can be seen that if one could perceive when and where counter-intention exists and then step back enough to see one’s way around it (either by handling it with communication or by removing it), then one could conquer the worry and live a happier life!
In this day and age in this society there are unforeseen counter-intentions even to the very survival of the human body that our children are not aware of. In fact, children are so unaware of these that they will actually demand to have these things in their lives, experiencing it personally as a counter-intention when others try to limit or remove these things from their environment. This is truly the thing I want to make you aware of now. All the other points can be debated and taken up elsewhere. Alerting parents to the real dangers that lead our children into depression is of utmost importance.
Factors that can Lead to Child Depression
- Lack of sleep: Due to the prevalence of television programming, computers and video games, I am finding that children are getting to bed later and later. Adults are also victims of this problem and often set a bad example themselves. A child’s body does not need eight hours of sleep; it actually needs much more. This is the time the body grows and regenerates itself. Without this time, the body will draw energy from elsewhere. A body feeling tired drags a person down. With very young children, parents see this easily. “My child missed his/her nap time so they are cranky.” Well guess what? If you or your 14 year old do not get enough sleep, that bad attitude you are experiencing is his/your “cranky”, no matter what else you call it. As a person gets older, it becomes a temper tantrum and it occurs because the body is not well rested.
- Lack of nutritious food also causes a body to wilt and causes one to become cranky. Now this is a tricky one, especially in the United States where packaged foods filled with chemicals and sugars are promoted heavily, and where government-sanctioned, genetically-modified foods (GMOs) are promoted as “nourishing”. In truth, many countries have banned these due to the amount of health problems that have been documented directly relating to the ingestion of GMOs. When a body is malnourished, the individual owning that body tends to get cranky, sad and eventually becomes apathetic.
- Lack of adequate exercise: The current public school system in the United States has promoted having less and less recess time. A child’s attention span is short and this was understood and allowed for in past school organization. There was 45 minutes of one class, then a brief time to run around to play ball or jump rope, then 45 minutes of another class, then lunch (which included time to run and play with friends), then 45 minutes of another subject after which the kids went to “phys ed” – physical education, or gym class with lots of exercise.
Sadly, the latest trend in public schools is that now children are pinned to the classroom for a full 6-8 hours. This environment is full of their friends, whom they are not allowed to talk to or play with. Their recess time has been replaced with “walk-abouts”: they line up and as a class they walk around the grounds. They are not allowed to talk and play with each other. (!)
I truly do not understand the “think” behind this or how the school system translates it to a short attention span. This apparently started about ten years ago when my daughter was in fifth grade for the elementary school age children. In my experience and understanding of children, this would cause a child to have a problem. Their attention is short and when no longer on “work” they talk to their friend and then end up in a disciplinary action. The child protests more and more in the ways children often do, becoming more and more a “discipline” problem in class. They then become more and more sneaky about their protest, which when found out gets them in further trouble. Finally, they are either punished or medicated into submission. This would depress anyone! I find that just writing about it depresses me!
- Lack of effective methods for study: Also a situation in the modern school system is that currently schools are ordered that they have to teach to the “mean”; the “mean” being the average of the majority of children. The children that are too bright become easily bored and the children that are not getting the material as well as others fall off to the sides. In fairness to the schools, they have tried to compensate for this with special classes for the high end student and the slower students. But in every case when a student doesn’t get it 100%, they do not then go back and clear up the thing that was not understood.
Once they get a passing grade, it is assumed that they have grasped the material well enough to get along. It is often missed by the Department of Education that once a person goes past something they don’t understand, the ensuing more difficult steps become almost impossible to accomplish and understand. Once this happens, the decision most students make is, “I am stupid.” Having run a tutoring center for years and working with both children and illiterate adults, I can tell you that I have observed one for one that they do make this decision.
Once this decision is made, it is of course not very pro-survival to let anyone else know that. Thus the child keeps this secret to themselves, feeling very sad and feelling different from the other children around them.
Again, this is a problem. They have the intention to fit in, to understand and to be happy but, “something” unknown to them is counter-intending this. They depend on and trust the teachers and their parents to help them, and when they can’t successfully get that help, they eventually give up trying and feel sadder. Or perhaps they fight it – after all, they know they can do other things well, so they rebel, now becoming a discipline problem. Once again, they are then either punished into submission or worse, medicated into submission.
In this fourth scenario above, it should be known that Applied Scholastics does have access to a workable study technology researched and developed by L. Ron Hubbard that has been proven successful for over fifty-two years.
L. Ron Hubbard also did extensive research into the subject of Ethics: those principles and actions which promote the best survival potential for an individual. He codified it in a number of books and booklets. “The Way to Happiness” is one such booklet that is completely secular and can be used in any school or group activity. It helps to lay out a code by which people can clearly see that following this will lead to happiness and the best survival for the person and society.
It is my intention that parents become more aware of the four points above and become more pro-active in helping their children understand these points. Parents must help their school system work out a better, more effective mode of educating the children and must demand from their government better food and better school programs. We would then have far less depression among our children.
The future of our civilization is in our hands. Let’s make it a good one with happy, productive, healthy people. Only you have the magic to make it happen with caring, diligence and hard work.
Wishing you all magic,
Diane DiGregorio Norgard
Mace-Kingsley Family Center