Emily*, a beneficiary of our Ronald McDonald Family Room at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), shares her story of her daughter, Natalie’s* Depression.
Natalie was formally diagnosed with Depression in April 2019. It first started with mood issues in 2018 but it never occurred to her mother, that it could be Depression and attributed her mood swings to being an expected part of puberty.
As the main caregiver to Natalie and her two other siblings, Emily’s frustration started growing when she had to nag at Natalie to perform simple, functional tasks like taking dinner, showering, completing her homework and more. For a period of time, the mother and daughter duo were constantly arguing every single day and this was the point that Emily suggested for Natalie to see the school counsellor to talk to someone about anger management issues; which was what she originally thought Natalie was going through and even offered to see the school counsellor together. Natalie took to her suggestion and went on to meet with her school counsellor. That’s when Emily got the call from the counsellor, telling her that Natalie had “Selective Depression” and suggested she be brought for more counselling sessions during the school holidays.
Emily admits it was initially hard to accept and comprehend why Natalie would be depressed. She was doing well in school – both academically and beyond. Emily was also very active in the Parent Support Group, and the common interaction with the teachers showed no tell-tale signs.
In November 2018, Natalie experienced her first major meltdown that required the police’s intervention. Through that episode, it opened up the opportunity for Natalie to share about her depressive moods and fears with her mother. She subsequently agreed to go for counselling sessions but did not find it useful.
When school started the next year, Natalie voiced out to Emily about being unable to cope with her moods and was feeling more depressed. They explored changing schools to give her a fresh environment, but unfortunately just after one week of attending the new school, Natalie was cyber-bullied and eventually refused school altogether.
Her refusing school was very hard on Emily – who could not understand why and did not know what happened. Things were made worst when the school suggested for Natalie to withdraw. Emily stood firm and fought for Natalie to remain in school, believing that what her daughter needed in that moment was help and support, not “punishment” from the school.
It was then that she started to research more about depression and went all out to call the different agencies to find out who to approach for help and what she can do for her daughter. It was a very tough period, not knowing who to get help from and having to manage an enraged child who locked herself in the room, who refused to communicate and used gaming to ignore attempts at interaction. This made Emily growingly worried, that Natalie could harm herself while left alone.
Efforts to see a General Practitioner and a Private Psychiatrist were not fruitful, with Natalie choosing to remain mum at her appointments. The advice from these doctor appointments were to then bring her to IMH.
In April 2019, Natalie had another major meltdown which triggered violent tendencies. Emily had to seek help from the police yet again, and they then took Natalie to IMH. That’s when it kickstarted her recovery journey.
Today, Emily has a much closer relationship with Natalie and her brothers. Emily has also registered herself for caregiver training, attended many workshops and webinars on parenting and mental health and even took up a Graduate Diploma on Psychology and Counselling to better equip herself to support Natalie!
As encouragement to other parents finding themselves in similar situations, Emily says “I feel all caregivers have made many sacrifices in their own ways, and it is the unfailing love we have for our children that keeps us going. Learn to take small steps and celebrate the small wins. Our children need us and know that they appreciate what you have done; even if they do not express it.”
*Names and images used have been changed to protect the identity of our beneficiaries.