Two years after her daughter committed suicide, actress Shamaine Buencamino is opening up more about that painful chapter in her family's life. Her message: depression is real in teens, and parents need to work hard at keeping the communication lines open with their kids especially as they grow up.
During a guest appearance in Magandang Buhay, the veteran thespian revealed they had a "psychological autopsy" conducted, and it indicated that Julia was battling depression and she might have suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
A psychological autopsy collects interviews with family and friends and works of the deceased, such as artwork or journal, are studied by experts. Psychology Today defines BPD as "a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and an individual's sense of identity."
Shamaine had no idea of her daughter's condition. She told Magandang Buhay, "We were foolish. Ngayon, nasasabi ko in hindsight na parang ang tanga-tanga namin. Kasi, akala namin, dahil pinalaki namin silang masayahin, nabigay namin ang lahat ng kailangan nila, okay na."
The actress said a written rule at their home — everyone kept out of each other's personal belongings of people unless one was granted permission — might have been unfavorable in light of her daughter's condition
“So may parang may written rule na you can’t look, so parang ganun yung ginawa namin sa kanila. Kahit na nandun lang yung diary ni Julia, hindi ko tinitingnan.”
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Shamaine wondered if she could have given her daughter the help she needed had she read Julia's diary.
Depression can be challenging to spot in teens, and it doesn’t just manifest itself as sadness.
Appearing with Shamaine in Magandang Buhay was Dr. Felicitas Soriano, who is the chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center and acting assistant chief of the Medical Profession Staff at the Veterans Medical Memorial Center.
When it comes to teenage depression, Dr. Soriano pointed out that the predominant symptoms are anger and irritability, which one would think are typical teen behavior.
Dr. Soriano says, “Usually they will withdraw from the parents. Ayaw nila masyado makipag-usap sa parents, ayaw nila mag-open up sa parents, pero ando’n sila sa barkada nila.
“So pag napapansin mo yung masayahin mong anak nakikipag-usap sa inyo tapos bigla na lang hindi pero nakikipag-usap pero do’n sa mga kaibigan…”
“Malala na ang lungkot na yon [pag] hindi na lumalabas ng kwarto, hindi na kakain, hindi na ginagawa ang mga gusto niyang ginagawa before,” she related.
“Ang pinakagrabe, yung may idea na suicidal thoughts. Ang tawag do’n sa psychiatry ay clinical depression.” She also advised paying attention to the child’s school grades and performance in school.
“Tsaka very sensitive sila sa criticisms. Yung mga teenagers kasi that’s the time actually that they have this need for belongingness.”
Dr. Soriano also explained that gadgets could lead to an increase in depression among kids. She continued that spending more time with devices to play games or do social media means lesser time and interaction with family members.
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“Everything will come in with one click of their finger, so wala silang patience, wala silang tolerance.”
In the 2017 Children's Mental Health Report by the Child Mind Institute in the U.S., findings showed that eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56% more likely to report being unhappy than those who spend less time. Teens report Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram increase feelings of anxiety.
Heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27%.
To prepare your child for the challenges that teenage life can bring, you need to raise him to be emotionally resilient. Let him experience the consequences of his chosen actions, which means avoiding the parental instinct to rescue.
“Huwag kayong masyadong taga-solve ng problema ng anak n’yo,” Dr. Soriano advised. “Look at them. Observe them kung paano nila sino-solve ang problema nila. Pag 'di nila kaya, that’s the time to get in.”
She further stated that solving the problem for your kids is not a good idea because they will more likely find it harder to cope up when they grow up. "Mas maraming mistakes, mas maraming frustrations, depression.”
As toddlers, the hovering may be acceptable up to a certain point (remember we want them to learn independence). But once they become teens, the overparenting will feel intrusive. It's a delicate balance, so it's even more important to be observant and be in tune with our children's behavior, says Dr. Soriano.
“You just have to affirm that he or she is good girl or good boy para lalaki siya may bilib sa sarili niya. Prioritize ang mga anak every time.” Try to be there during the milestones of your child whether be at home or in school."
But, parents, you need to brace yourself. There are times when it doesn't matter what you do or how you good of a parent you are. Depression can still strike your child.
Shamaine explained her daughter acted her usual self, appeared happy and was talking with family members. Nothing told them it was all a facade. Dr. Soriano referred to it as “masked depression,” where a patient hides his true feeling of depression.
“Sa depression walang mabi-blame doon. Don’t blame yourself,” said Dr. Soriano.
She reminded the show's viewers, “There are no perfect parents as there are no perfect children. Kahit sino sa atin kahit mayaman walang pera, maganda o pangit, lahat tayo pwede tayong magkaroon ng depresyon.
“So kung meron man kayong nakikitang sintomas sa mga anak n’yo, una n’yong gagawin kausapin, tingnan nyo kung malalaman n’yo ang mga problema nila.
“Kung aabot na suicidal thoughts, feeling of worthlessness, uselessness, tapos wala nang motivation to do anything, [seek] professional help.”
Dr. Soriano highlighted that “talk therapy” is an essential tool in dealing with people with depression. Her best advice to deal with someone with this condition: “Validate. Huwag na huwag i-invalidate, ‘Wala ‘yan, kaya mo ‘yan. Umaarte ka lang.’”
Parents will need professional help when it comes to dealing with depression. Only a doctor can make a clinical diagnosis of any mental health disorder. But a parent's feedback is just as valuable, and when therapy is needed, the parent is the doctor's best co-captain in treatment.
If you think your teen may attempt self-harm or suicide, call 804-HOPE(4673), 0917-558-HOPE(4673) or 2919