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After the diagnosis

After the diagnosis

Once a child is diagnosed with a mental illness it can be tough on the whole family, especially if nobody has any experience with mental illnesses. It can end up causing tension that wasn’t there before, but it is important to understand what your child may be going through and try to help them through this difficult time in their lives to ease some of that tension. 

How to help

The best thing to do is not immediately try to smother your child with love or continuously watch them. Yes, it is important to keep an eye on them, but they may feel overwhelmed with their own plethora of feelings and may feel trapped when you unintentionally smother them with all of yours — even when it’s all out of love. If you have never had a mental illness it can be extremely difficult to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they are going through. But you have to understand that mental illnesses don’t get fixed overnight, and just because they may have one good day, doesn’t mean they’re cured. 

What to expect

Every person deals with their mental illness differently, so everyone’s road to recovery will look different as well. When it comes to mental illnesses, like depression, it is common for the child’s personality to change and they may not seem like themselves. Irritability is also a huge factor and can seem like a child acting out when in reality they are struggling to express/deal with their emotions correctly.  


What to do after your child is diagnosed with a mental illness. 

Sensitive topics to stay away from 

  • Positivity 
  • Being understanding of the illness 
  • Don’t push 


Education: Educating your child about depression is a crucial first step. This helps your child understand the possible causes (genetics, environmental factors, bullying, stress), understand brain chemistry (low serotonin), and reduce self-blame. It also normalizes what your child is going through.

  • Psychotherapy: Counseling is a good option for kids struggling with depression. There are different kinds of counseling and what works for one might not work for another. For very young children, play therapy is an option. For older kids and teens, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be effective. It can take time to find the best patient/therapist match. Make several calls and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You know your child best.
  • Medication: Medication might be necessary for moderate to severe cases, but medication works best when combined with counseling. Medication management is important. Close supervision of the prescribing physician is recommended.
  • Hospitalization: For severe cases of depression, including suicidal ideation, hospitalization is sometimes necessary.
  • Encouraging daily exercise (this does not have to include an organized sport. Family walks count.)
  • Supervising any medication (it’s too much to ask a depressed child to manage his own medication)
  • Make time to talk. Counseling will help your child begin to open up and verbalize feelings; it’s your job to listen and provide unconditional support when your child opens up at home.
  • Cook healthy meals. Healthy lifestyle choices can help with the treatment process.
  • Encourage healthy sleep habits
  • Extended time for lengthy assignments and tests
  • Breaking down assignments into manageable pieces (this is particularly helpful for kids who appear “overwhelmed”)
  • Help to create study or homework schedules
  • Provide copy of class notes (helpful for impaired concentration)
  • Taking tests in a quiet room, free from distractions




-Jessica Lee

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