Depression is Family Disease, So Let's Talk About It

January 27, 2012 Jack Smith

Depression is a family disease. Not just because it runs in families—but because it can ruin families.

Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. I am a happily married man with three wonderful children, and yet I suffer from depression. And my depression affects the whole family.

Children are incredibly perceptive. My 8-year-old picks up on it even when my bouts with depression aren’t so severe. My 10-year-old keeps things inside, so he rarely comments about it, but he notices.unknown

My precocious 12-year-old daughter is a different story. She misses nothing and she clearly knows when I’m spiraling into a depressive episode. She has asked me many times if I am feeling okay. She’s been doing that for years.

So my wife and I decided not so long ago that it was time to discuss my mental illness with her. It only made sense to be honest about it. Think about it another way: If I were diagnosed with diabetes or even cancer, we would surely talk to the kids about it. We might not tell them everything, but we sure wouldn’t hide it from them entirely.

Honesty the Best Policy
That got me to thinking. What is the appropriate age for kids to learn that their parent suffers from depression, or any other mental illness for that matter?

We felt it was time to quit hiding the truth. So my wife and I talked to our daughter about my illness. It seemed to make her less anxious about what was going on with her Dad. And it worked wonders for me. There is something very liberating about openly discussing my depression. Sharing it with my daughter made both of us feel better. Now she knows when I’m feeling down that it’s not her or her brothers’ fault. She understands and has shown a level of compassion that many adults would do well to emulate.

Children and Depression
I was not diagnosed with depression until my early 30s. I never felt depressed as a kid, or at least not that I remember. My earliest memories of battling depression came during my college years.

My hope and prayer is my children don’t ever have to fight the same demons. But if they do, I will know the symptoms and know how to get help. If you think your child may be depressed, there is a great article on HealthyPlace that could help. It talks about the proper ways to approach the subject with kids.

I am no expert in this area, but I can tell you that sharing my own experiences with my oldest child helped lift the heavy burden of guilt and grief that I often felt when I worried that my illness was hurting our family.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. But if you suffer from depression and you hide it from your family, I can tell you from experience you probably won’t fully recover.

APA Reference
Smith, J. (2012, January 27). Depression is Family Disease, So Let's Talk About It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Jack Smith

Kyle B
July, 10 2012 at 9:41 am

This is all great advice, and like you, I don't follow any of the suggestions provided by my professional therapy except taking my meds consistantly.
I have recognized the importance of sharing my disease, but unfortunately my disease was magnified through three major brain surgeries to the right frontal lobe, our emotional and impulse control center, not to mention our personality, (which I deemed at the time as being routine and 'not a big deal').
Like many others w/ depression, these things lurked under the surface for years and the stigma of being a male made it even more difficult to seek and accept professional help.
But, my question truly lies w/ the family. After providing all of the facts and offering some excellent resources (one book specifically was written to assist w/ familial understanding - "Brain Injury Survivor's Guide" by Larry and Beth Jameson), yet after suggesting prior to purchase of the book to my wife and son (18 now), neither of them have yet to pick it up, even after reminders.
How can we help the family members get onboard w/ the support aspect and assist in the coping?
I do okay w/ many medications (currently three versions of anti-depressants, among others) and have reduced the intensity of the cycles of highs and extreme lows, but sometimes they still occur w/ some devastating consequences (random cycle between affecting work life and home life, never at the same time).
But, even after three years since surgery, how can I help the family get out of the denial stage? Thanks for your input!

Dr Musli Ferati
February, 8 2012 at 5:48 am

The question about mental illnesses in family is very provocative matter as well as its impact on health functioning of this dynamic social system, such is family. Undoubtfully,this maxim is value for depressin as most frequent mood disorder all over the world.In this directio two things ore of crucial importance: the first one is to be honest toward others members of family as well as to oneself. That means that is mandatatary to discover the mental disease to all members of family. The second one is to admit the veracity that there aren't any guilty person in family for displaying of mental illness to respective member of family. Nevertheless. it is much hard task to implement these prerequisite condition than to recommendations, because the role and place of members in family social network is interlaced one. There are numerous emotional, interpersonal connection that impede and/or load these inexplicable relationships such are they in the bosom of concrete family.It is most preferable to be spontaneous, such as to coexist in family withou any person with mental illness.

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