Why Parents Deny Children Depression and Mental Illness?

Depression is a mental disorder where you feel severe mood swings, sadness, loss of interest in daily activities. Having depression makes you feel worthless, guilty about yourself, you experience low self-esteem, low energy, loss of appetite and poor concentration. Unlike sadness, depression persisted for a longer period. Facts show an average of 20% of teenagers of age between 12 and 18 experience depression due to various reasons like, academic stress, peer pressure, sexual orientation, hormonal changes, traumatic events of childhood, dysfunctional family, lack of emotional unfulfilment, divorcing parents, and/or romantic problems.

However, due to stigma attached to mental health conditions, parents ignore the behavioral changes in their child. Parents ignore mental illness of their child altogether, reasoning if they have food on their table and place to live in there cannot be any scope of depression. If one is sufficient for their basic physical needs, they are good to go. Parents are in denial about mental illness because accepting their child is in depression is quite challenging since some fear this might mess with their beliefs of having a normal family and social status.

Effects of ignored depression

Among teens:

When parents ignore mental illness of their teenagers, it closes them off.

  1. They withdraw in themselves, lose motivation and suffer from memory loss.
  2. They start spending more time indoors and develop a habit of not letting anyone in.
  3. Teens experiencing depression or any kind of mental health problems develop irresponsible, rebellious or erratic behaviors.
  4. They have difficulty in making decisions.
  5. Teens going through depression might stay awake at night and sleep during the day.
  6. They don’t do well in studies. Their grades drop unexplainably.
  7. They tend towards alcohol, drugs and unrestrained sexual activity.
  8. In extreme cases, teenagers dealing with depression and mental illness might be preoccupied with suicidal tendencies.

Among adults:

Parents are in denial about mental illness even for their adult children. Parents ignore mental illness of their adult child is a way of avoidance. It’s a technique human uses to cope with potentially stressful situations. It’s a behavioral coping technique that helps a person to deal with their own stress.

  1. When parents ignore mental illness from their adult child, they withdraw from life and start self-sabotaging their personal and professional life. Adults sabotage their happiness and fell into a cycle of being chronically unsuccessful in their career.
  2. Adults suffer emotional unfulfilment and prevent themselves from getting attached to anyone. They couldn’t form any kind of relationship.
  3. Adults develop mental disorder mostly because they grew up in an environment of emotional manipulation and guilt tripping. They had emotional wounds that are difficult to heal.
  4. Depression in adults mess with their foundation of life. They lack the idea of their life purposes.
  5. They turn to autopilot mode to just surviving life rather than living it.
  6. Having fun, making friends, go outside–aren’t their options.
  7. They struggle every day to just pass the day. People who suffer from depression cannot perform day-to-day activities normally.
  8. They develop a distraction for themselves and forces themselves to believe they aren’t depressed and allow the doubt of their parents who are in denial about mental illness to manipulate and repress their unhealthy mind.

Also read: Emotional Wound: Symptoms, Causes and Ways to Heal

Here are a few reasons why parents are in denial about mental illness and have a difficulty in accepting the mental health issues with their children.

1. Simply put, parents feel awkward to talk about mental illness.

It’s a horrible feeling when you have a conversation with your child where they tell you how they have planned out the way to kill themself. No parent can process this as it would shake their foundation of life. Most of the people feel awkward talking about mental illness. While parents ignore mental illness discussions, the children might be having difficulty in expressing themselves.

2. Parents fear if the mental illness of their child comes out, it’ll ruin their social image.

As mental illness is stigmatized in general, parents fear that if they had to seek for professional help, it’ll prove their bad parenting and this thought pressurizes them to sabotage their child’s behavioral illness. A professional can help a child come out of their problems by organizing sessions while common people who are unexperienced with mental illness will simply name their child mentally unstable. This contradiction prevents parents to acknowledge their child’s mental health issues or depression.

3. Parents ignore mental illness because admitting their child has mental illness is admitting they couldn’t provide a healthy upbringing.

Parents are in denial about mental illness because they like to believe their child is happy and healthy. It is a by default belief all parents like to have about their child. For parent, giving birth to a physically healthy child means they won’t have to worry for them anymore. Parent overlook mental health, because they are also conditioned to ignore mental health. We live in such a society, where mental disorders are looked down upon. Sensitivity is a weakness, and depression is ‘just a phase’. Mental illness happens because of chemical imbalances in the brain. A physically healthy child might not be mentally well. But denying or avoiding this fact won’t change their mental state to a healthy one. Parents ignore mental illness can help their child by changing parenting style or offering emotional support. Parents need to understand their child’s problems from their child’s perspective.

4. Arranging for a professional therapist is a waste of money for many parents or simply expensive.

Many working-class parents would consider consulting a psychologist simply mean wasting money which can help with materialistic needs. They are more concerned for surviving rather than acknowledging other subtle aspects of life. Counselling a mentally unwell child professionally is expensive, and most parents cannot afford that high price.

5. Parents are in denial about mental illness because it’d ruin their dream of having a perfect family and perfect life.

No one can guarantee perfection in life. Everyone has their own imperfection. A ‘normal’ child can also end up in a misfortunate situation in their later life. Mental illness doesn’t make someone unworthy. Almost all of us suffer from some kinds of mental health issue. It’s a better option to acknowledge them rather than denying them. Parents ignore mental illness because they think, if they acknowledge the issues, it’ll make their family dysfunctional. Instead, parents need to be careful with their child who needs special emotional and medical attention.

Also read: How to Know if You’re Self-Sabotaging Yourself and How to Stop?

Wrapping up

No person is perfect, child or parent. As a survivor myself, I can understand the struggles one goes through when there’s no emotional fulfillment from own family members. Both have minimum responsibilities towards each other. Just like a parent can expect a child would perform their respective duties, a parent also needs to support their child in all of their ups and downs. Although most parents ignore mental illness saying it’s because of technology dependency, it’s still their responsibility to be there for their children in their dire need.