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Don't call my dad, he's depressed! PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Nidhi Bhushan   

A dad's a role model, a leader, a security blanket. When that image breaks, research says, children can become vulnerable to psychological and behavioural disorders. Nidhi Bhushan reports

Radhika S* was very quick to make friends, in fact, abnormally quick. But she showed signs of depression every now and then. Her friends often wondered what was eating their 14-year-old friend.

"Radhika was clinically depressed and was in a hypomania state (a mood state characterised by persistent and pervasive elevated or irritable mood) when her parents consulted me," says Dr Mythili M Sarma, psychologist and therapist, Aadhihara Clinic.

After 4-5 sessions, Radhika started confiding in the doctor. She told her that the fact that her dad (Mukesh S*) was not the ideal dad, disturbed her. "Her father hardly spent any time with her; he didn't like interacting with anyone. She told me he had not always been like that," says Dr Sarma, adding that Radhika was fed up of her mother cribbing about her dad.

Mukesh had lost his job as a software engineer three years ago when the firm he worked for closed down. "When I spoke to Mukesh, I found that he had been suffering from depression for three years. He had very low self esteem, was ashamed he couldn't provide for the family and had gone into a shell," says Dr Sarma. Radhika's behavioural problem stemmed from her father's depression.

Parents' behaviour plays a crucial role in determining the personality and development of a child. "Fathers are like role models to their children. A change in their behaviour can affect a child deeply," says Dr B Kapur, consultant psychiatrist, Lakeside and Columbia Asia Hospital.

Fathers should seek help at the earliest, he advises. Chetan Seth*, 15, also developed a behavioural disorder when his father became depressed. "Chetan's businessman-father would remain stressed and depressed over work-related pressures. He had become addicted to alcohol and would abuse Chetan's mother too," says Dr Murali Raj, head of department of psychiatry, Manipal Hospital. Dr Raj says that paternal alcoholism is another cause for a child's problems.

Most children become vulnerable to depression, anxiety, paranoia and behavioural problems like shyness and social phobia when their 'role models' fail to fulfill those expectations. "Such children also develop low self-esteem in their adolescence, as it is then that they realise the difference between good and bad," says Dr PS Murthy, consultant psychiatrist, Manipal Hospital.

Like mothers, fathers too are prone to depression in the postnatal period, which is 6-8 weeks after the birth of a child. Researchers say that paternal depression during this period too, has an impact on the child — it has been linked to increasing the chance of the child subsequently developing behavioural and emotional problems from 10 to 20%.

"Lack of sexual intimacy during the postnatal period leads to depression among many men. This hampers the child's development too," says Dr Raj.

*Names changed on request


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