Finding the hidden causes are essential
This year’s slogan for World Health Day is ‘Depression: Let’s talk’, shining a much-needed light on the growing cases of depression all across the world.
For most of us, ‘abuse’ is a discomforting word and quite often, it makes us think of physical and sexual violence. However, emotional abuse is also an important factor when thinking of depression, and we can face all of these forms of abuse at home or any other comfort zone. Children are more affected here by that weapon that often remains hidden from sight. Several studies have found that childhood abuse is related to low self-esteem and depression. We need to ask ourselves, are we providing enough security at home. Why is childhood depression so high in cities? Here are a few stories to explain what we’re doing wrong, and how crucial it is for family members to find the root causes of psychological problems. Security and loving attachments can go a long way in preventing depression.
Parents must take sexual abuse seriously
Rima was 11 years old when she was first sexually harassed by her private tutor. Then at 12 years, she was almost raped by her music teacher. Her life, emotions, socialisation – everything changed, but her parents only noticed behavioural change and anger. They were disturbed by their failure to control their child, and objected to her becoming “too independent”. Their lack of understanding made her more emotionally distant, and even though she tried to tell her story once, they focused only on her ‘honour’ and kept her more under surveillance. She was not allowed to go anywhere, even with friends. She became more and more lonely.
One day, something even worse happened in her life. She went to her grandmother’s house, and was sexually harassed by her own uncle. Based on her past experiences, she didn’t bother to tell her mother, because she knew she would somehow be blamed. Even when her parents finally sought medical help, their only complaint was that she had behavioural problems and was unsocial.
Cut out the constant criticism
Selina was very conscious about her beauty and her parents did not approve – they criticised her, punished her, and kept nagging in front of visitors at home. She often felt humiliated this way, and started to isolate herself. Her parents became more controlling and she became more arrogant. Once they reached breaking point, they came to seek help. The first thing to find out was, why was she so crazy about beautification? She explained how she had been bullied in her childhood for being fat, and how people put examples of others in front of her and asked her to follow suit. They questioned every choice of hers and advised her on what to eat, what to wear and what to do. She was afraid to join family gatherings because she became ashamed. She drawn a negative picture of herself and tried to change herself, and this effort made her more and more depressed.
This kind of story is common in children who achieve low academic grades at school. Criticism kills confidence.
Physical violence leads to anger
Shaikat, an adolescent, came to me with anger problems. Anger is usually an impact of serious neglect or punishment. When he described his story, he just became furious. He was talking about his father and how he beat him in his childhood, as if he was some sort of animal. His parents were unhappy together and always fighting. When he interrupted, even if it was for food, he would be scolded for no fault of his own. In this way, beatings, punishment and neglect became a part of his life.
When he became older, he decided that he will not tolerate this anymore, and also became very defensive.
*Names have been changed to protect identities
The author is counselor at the Clinical Psychology Department of United Hospital Limited