Maricopa parents were asked to get uncomfortable Wednesday.
Roughly 30 people attended a program by the Arizona-based “notMyKid” organization, which focuses childhood and adolescent depression and suicide. Parents and guardians of students enrolled in the Maricopa Unified School District were invited to the event at Maricopa Wells Middle School.
Since 2000, notMyKid has been educating the region about the many ways depression can manifest itself. The program emphasizes the need for communication and open discussion between parents, their children and the community so stereotypes can be dismantled, struggles can be overcome and lives can be saved.
The hour-long presentation was cut short by about 15 minutes due to an alleged gas leak in the cafeteria, but not before Program Director Joronda Montaño was able to lay out most of the pertinent information.
Though it may be unpleasant, Montaño said, having the conversation is key to addressing depression early on so things don’t get worse.
Recognizing how uncomfortable people can be discussing the topic, Montaño instructed the audience to cross their arms in front of them counter to how they normally do, attempting to highlight a simple discomfort.
“Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” Montaño said.
Several audience members indicated a certain level of actual fear they had talking to their children about suicide or depression. They worry the shame associated with feeling depressed can be overwhelming, making a mild case of depression worse simply by talking about it.
To break down some of those barriers, Montaño pointed out specific misconceptions. She stressed the fact that boys are just as susceptible to depression as girls, though they often show it in different ways.
She also emphasized warning signs of depression including substance abuse, changes in eating habits and sleep patterns, fatigue, loss of interest, trouble concentrating, self-injury and persistent suicidal thoughts.
Literature provided to attendees elaborated more on the signs of suicidal thoughts including direct verbal cues such as “I wish I were dead” and indirect verbal cues like “I can’t take it anymore.” The pamphlet also stressed behavioral cues like saying goodbye, giving away possessions or being more affectionate.
When any of these signs are noticed, the program encourages parents to “seize the moment” and talk “with” not “to” their children, listen more than speak and be non-accusatory.
For more detailed advice and a list of all the resources notMyKids provides, visit notMyKid.org.
Because the presentation was cut short, Montaño said they plan to reschedule the event, though no date has been set.