Out of 8 people, one person suffers from depression without knowing it.

Depression can strike anyone.

I watched Magandang Buhay last Monday, January 8, the episode was about depression among teenagers.

They featured the veteran theatre actress Shamaine Buencamino and how she dealt with the suicide of her daughter Julia Buencamino, who died at age 15.

Learning from their experience, Shamaine asks parents to take their children seriously.

She shared that younger generation now are more prone to suicide because of social media.

The Buencaminos launched a suicide prevention advocacy hoping to reach out to teenagers who are suffering in the dark like their daughter did.

They started the Julia Buencamino Project, highlighted by the Julia Bench, a safe zone for teenagers to find company among peers stationed in different schools.

It was a white wooden bench with decal stickers featuring Julia’s drawings, mostly colorful portraits of girls with bright eyes and big hair.

She also campaigned for psychiatric help to be more affordable and accessible in the Philippines, where therapy is expensive and specialists are few.


Theatre thespians Nonie and Shamaine Buencamino shares the Julia Buencamino Project, highlighted by the Julia Bench. (Photo credits to the owner.)

On the other hand, Dr. Norieta Calma-Balderrama, chairperson of the Philippine Board of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said cases of teenage depression in the country have increased by up to 75% in the last 25 years.

Among the signs of the teenage depression are as follows:

• Apathy
• Sadness, anxiety, a feeling of hopelessness
• Excessive or inappropriate guilt
• Irresponsible behavior
• Sudden drop in grades
• Difficulty in concentrating
• Difficulty in making decisions
• Memory loss
• Rebellious behavior
• Use of alcohol or drugs
• Promiscuous sexual activity
• Withdrawal from friends

Balderrama shared that while there are obvious signs of depression, some teenagers are able to mask it.

This is why, she said, it is important that parents always spend time to talk with their children.

Balderrama said devoting time to children is most important when they reach adolescence since this is the phase where they experience a lot of changes.

Good parenting, she stressed, decreases the possibility of depression, unless the source of the problem are the parents themselves.

What should parents do?

Understand the stage your teen is going through. The adolescence stage is a turbulent stage for any teenager. Your teen may be struggling through these times and you should understand what he or she is experiencing.

Observe your child’s behavior. Discern signs and symptoms of depression manifested by your teen. If you sense something unusual in your child’s behavior, verify this by asking your teen’s friends or teachers.

Communicate with your child. Talk to your teen and listen to him or her so you will be able to find out more about his or her feelings. Assure your child that you are there to offer support. If your child denies that he or she is depressed, just be gentle. Listen without being judgmental. Listen with your eyes, your ears and your heart. Show that you understand him/ her and you empathize with him/ her. You should be gentle to let your teen realize that he or she is in a state of depression. Though it is quite difficult for a person to be convinced that he or she is depressed, you need to persevere.

Consult a doctor or a specialist. If talking to your child doesn’t work, seek professional help. Go to a doctor, a psychologist or a psychiatrist who can help you and your teen diagnose depression. But first make sure you talk to your child before doing this so he or she is prepared and will cooperate with the doctor or specialist.

Consider treatment options. Discuss with the doctor or specialist the possibilities of treating depression. This could involve ‘talk’ therapy, group or family therapy and medication.

Support your teen through treatment. Be understanding and patient. If the child is depressed, he needs someone to rely on, to talk to, to listen to him and to have emphatic understanding for him or her during this difficult situation. Encourage your child to stay active, and to socialize with others. Be aware of the treatment he or she has to undergo and most of all learn more about depression.

As you help your child through depression, don’t forget to take of yourself and the other family members. Don’t just focus all of your time and energy to your depressed teen. It is also recommended that you open to other family members and ask help from them.