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How you can help young people manage their depression and grief

December 14, 2006

Young people find it hard to cope
Depression, hysteria, or suicide attempts…these can be triggered by failure in an examination, a failed relationship, rejection by peers or the death of a loved one…and in all such cases the younger you are, the harder it is to deal with the problem. Lack of communication with parents compounds the problem.
Dr. Bappaditya Deb, psychiatrist, explains. ‘The younger you are, the more difficult it is for you to cope. A youngster has probably not experienced a similar situation before and could think of it as the end of the world. And if he has no support system, he could well seek an escape route.’
Denial is a temporary escape route
Some years ago when a five-storey building in Calcutta collapsed, killing over 16 people who were fast asleep, eleven year old Rishi Damani (who lost his parents) went into a state of shock, quite unable to comprehend the enormity of the tragedy. But the day after the incident he wanted to go to school again.
Young people who are unable to express their feelings of insecurity and grief often like to immerse themselves in their daily routine. While this is good, it is important that feelings are expressed. ‘People who have survived accidents, natural calamities or have been surviors of say, a violent crime, usually suffer from what we call post-traumatic stress disorder. They need an atmosphere of security and comfort,’ says Dr. S.K. Som, psychiatrist. ‘If the victim is very young he needs substitute parenting. If necessary he should move in with those who can provide such an environment.’
Young children need physical demonstrations of affection
For very young children, physical proximity is crucial at this stage. ‘They are more readily consoled by physical demonstrations of assurance such as hugging, rather than formal messages of condolence,’ says Dr. Som. They should not be left alone, specially at night, as they may be frightened by recurrent nightmares and flashbacks replaying the events which caused the unfortunate event.
What happens immediately after a stressful event?
Essentially the survivor goes through three stages. ‘The first stage is disbelief and denial,’ says Dr. Deb, ‘and this stage could last for a couple of days or some weeks. The second phase is anger and the victim keeps asking himself: Why did this happen to me? The sufferer attempts to find someone he can hold responsible for the tragedy. In case of an accident or a situation where a crime has been committed, the victim wants the guilty to be brought to book.
‘The third stage,’ continues Dr. Deb, ‘is that of depression and the duration depends entirely on the victim’s age, mental stability, the circumstances at the time of the tragedy and the support system he has.’
How to help:
The doctors suggest the following ways to offer support:
1) The victim should be encouraged to express his grief, not suppress it.
2) Friends and relatives have to ensure that the sufferer does not withdraw from people.
3) Most people benefit from talking to a counselor and the sufferer should be encouraged to speak to one.

If the person is suicidal:
1) Obtain as much information as possible about the circumstances leading to the flashpoint.
2) Encourage the sufferer to see a counselor.
3) If the person agrees, then chalk out a course of action. For example you can suggest a counselor.
4) If the person refuses to seek help, suggest the involvement of a senior family member or friend.
5) If you do have to give advice, remember that practical solutions to problems are more helpful. The emphasis has to on averting any crisis and not a long-term solution.
6) Attempt to sort out the confusion in the person’s mind. A depressed person often sees the problem as far more serious than it actually is.
7) Point out to the individual his strengths and the positive aspects of his life. In other words: Establish a relationship. The depressed person needs a good friend/listener more than anything else.

(This article was published in The Telegraph, Calcutta, under the title of ‘Help Survivors Cope with Tragedy.’ )

Related Reading: The right time to see a psychiatrist
Loneliness – a cause of depression

28 Comments leave one →
  1. Saswata Roy Choudhuri permalink
    October 7, 2007 8:25 am

    Respected Sir/Madam,
    I need help from any concern.I was in a steady relation with my girlfriend SOMREETA KUNDU from 14july2006. We even had physical relation.We were very much happy.But for the last few months she is behaving strangely with me.she is even provouging me to comit suicide.She is even pressurising me.
    I am very much depressed.please help me.please.please.
    With regards,

    You need to seek professional help for your girl-friend. For gods sake don’t get influenced by her!! Be firm and take her to a mental health professional – Nita.

  2. October 13, 2007 8:03 pm

    This is a very optimistic, practical article. It’s hard to believe, but many still don’t know the symptoms of depression, and have no idea what to do if a loved one has the disorder.

  3. October 13, 2007 10:10 pm

    Thanks Christine.

  4. November 12, 2007 6:09 am

    Hi Neeta,
    I was searching for information on Personality Disorder and ways to get out of it. and landed up here. I must say the best Blog/Reading material for General Issues.

    I am a 27 years old Single man freelancing in Software Development.
    I tried to work with 5 different Organization/Team in the last 3 years and was unable to sustain because of various reasons. Everywhere I worked at nights when I am the only one Working in the Office to avoid having to deal with anyone and cover my anxiety. and Some how managed to get my Seniors allow me to Work alone with dedication.

    I have done a lot of readings/research in the Internet to understand if I have any disorder/is it normal if at all it is/ways to tackle this… etc..

    I wan to take a Professional help and I feel I need Family Support for this. But I am afraid of disclosing all the facts to my Family for fear of a number of reasons.
    1) They might simply not understand and ignore my concern.
    2) I might have to hear for what I did with my life from my Family.
    3) visualizing What People will talk about it.

    I cant approach a psychiatrist for fear of
    1) Financial (How expensive it can be)
    2) I want someone to give me the courage and take me to the Psychiatrist
    3) If I don’t find the Counselor smart enough to Answer my Questions and I mostly find what they say as dishonest. The Point is I can’t trust them.

    I haven’t gone Home for the last 2 Years because I don’t feel like meeting anyone. I have decided to leave my Present place which is 2000 Kms from my Home town to go somewhere near my Home.

    I am still to make up my mind to ask my Family to support me and help me take the Professional help.

    I just want my Family to know and understand what I have gone through and still going through and take necessary steps…

    How should one deal with such situation?

  5. November 12, 2007 8:03 am

    Bijay, from what I read from your message I can see that you have understood yourself and the fact that you need help. That is half the battle won!
    Frankly it is best if you can trust a family member and take their help. It is possible that you are finding it difficult to know whom to trust but this is perhaps because you are finding it difficult to evaluate. And the last thing that is required at this stage is for anyone to discourage you or make you feel bad about yourself. I feel it’s perfectly alright to go to a psychiatrist yourself.
    And good psychiatrists in big cities are not cheap but I don’t think you should think of the cost. After all what else are you earning for? Your treatment will increase your earning potential.
    And it does happen that at times a particular counselor may not suit you but Bijay you have to start somewhere. You have to trust someone. But do not think of a doc as dishonest. Don’t start with that premise.
    Unfortunately in our society there is a stigma attached to psychiatry and if you suspect that any of your family members might dissuade you to go to one, then it’s best you take the step alone.
    In small places you might find that psychiatrists are cheaper. It is difficult to say what the charges are but they charge as much as any specialist does, lie say an ENT.
    You are in charge of your life Bijay, no one else. You can do this alone. You had the courage to write this note and that means you have the courage to take the next step.
    Counselors btw are much cheaper and perhaps you can start here. the problem is finding a good qualified counselor. It’s not easy. Please start the search in your city, yellow pages is a place to start. Or ask any doctor who you go to regularly to recommend one. Perhaps this doctor can also give you the support you need.

  6. November 24, 2007 11:04 pm

    Thank you very much Nita.

  7. January 9, 2008 2:26 am

    i have a bad case of depression and im only 12 i fell like crying i cant to good and school and all i can do is cry help me itz hard for me to truggle to bring myself to school and noone can help me none i nedd help so i can get my life back help me pleaz lauren 12

  8. January 9, 2008 2:27 am

    i need help becASE I CANT FUNCTION IM ONLY 12

  9. Raj permalink
    February 1, 2008 10:47 pm


    I can understand your struggle.I have gone through it myself once.

    You have done the right thing in identifying your problems as depression.Now,you need help.Please speak to a parent,an elder sibling or even a close friend first.They will help you.I know you hate school.But try speaking to a kind and friendly teacher.She might be able to help you.

    Websites may not be of much help.But wherever you are,there must be some kind of a helpline for children and teenagers who need help.Try to get in touch with them.But do so after you have spoken to a parent,elder sibling,friend or teacher.

    I hope and pray to see you cheerful again.Best wishes.

  10. February 1, 2008 10:54 pm

    Thank you Raj for replying to Lauren! I feel so bad I missed this comment completely.

  11. Raj permalink
    February 1, 2008 11:01 pm


    I think the girl is badly in need of help.She may not visit this page to find out more.If she has given you her e-mail address,please send her an e-mail.I think it will help her.If she has not,then we can only hope for the best.Thanks.

  12. sheilawhittam permalink
    February 27, 2008 5:44 am

    I am new to bloging. I am touched that people care to address such issues and can get responces from others. Remember thought that the replies is an opinion and the senior person that you can speak personally to if they have wisdom.. you will know someone who has wisdom.. others recognise it. Go to them and ask if you can talk. Talking about your problems is a great relief. And if they invite you to return do so. This costs nothing except perhaps some small thankyou gift of flowers.

  13. EarthSurvivor permalink
    September 17, 2008 4:33 am

    Hi Neeta,

    I am looking for some help. Firstly I would like you to differentiate between a psychologist and a psychiatrist so I can figure out who do I need.

    Secondly, here is my problem. I have been suffering from some type of a Dissociative Disorder for approx the past 2 years 5 months (I am 24). I mostly don’t like taking help especially to sort out mental problems coz I feel that finally someone else is only going to help me help myself and if I can read the vibes that come from within and move into the direction of improvement / recovery then that’s the best way to do it. So, I found out about it from the net and have been on the path of recovery since around the past 1 year 4 months. I am doing much much better. But I’m in the “consolidation phase” as I’d like to call it (I’m hoping you know about DDs). But, since I have strengthened from within now, I feel I want to discuss the issue with a psychiatrist / psychologist so s/he may be able to help me in whatever way to recover faster.

    Would you be able to suggest some good doctor for the purpose, in Pune . Or may be you can help me yourself. Do let me know. I’d appreciate it if you mail me on my email add.

    Thanks so much!


  14. June 14, 2009 10:22 pm

    For excellent professional psychiatric help in Pune, I recommend Dr. Suparna Telang, at both Ruby Hall Clinic and Jehangir Hospital.

    In Mumbai, I recommend Dr. Harish Shetty.

    Disclaimer: I have visited both doctors for extended periods of time.

  15. vasudev permalink
    June 14, 2009 11:01 pm

    my own life experience:

    right from my childhood i developed a system of ‘ignoring’ that which troubled me. so i would ignore an illness, ignore a bully, ignore a bad day and ignore everything that happened all around me. today i often forget faces, people, names and incidences. not that it bothers me but it embarrasses me for the sake of the other. likewise, i keep only that info which is required and discard all that which isn’t. my office feels that i should know more about what others do but i think i would not like to know anything other than what i do. am i good for some psychic help or am i ok as it is?

    Vasudev, Ignoring mental violence towards oneself is harmful for the self. I have read something on this and what it does is that this anger which you are suppressing will certainly come out, but it could come out in the form of an over reaction to some minor incident and this could affect relationships. – Nita

    • vasudev permalink
      June 15, 2009 2:53 pm

      Nita…thanks and I absolutely agree with your findings. I am trying to change all that now, slowly, being more careful to see and check what I am ignoring, trying my best to become communicative etc. I hate shrinks. They make you go madder! Self-help and counselling within closed circles is helping me.

  16. November 17, 2009 12:43 am

    Hi neeta,
    I am dinesh from pune.Currently due to recession i lost my job.
    I am suffering from mental disorder from last 10 years.but from last 2 years i am facing worst mental situation.Following are some symptoms.
    1.I am not gettting any type of satisfaction and pleasure from any activities.(But before 2 years i was getting some sort of satisfaction)
    2.I am facing problems with normal conversation with peoples.
    3.No intrest in sex and there is no natural feeling about sex.(As i got married 1 year before,my married life is totally disturbed)
    4.I am feeling that there is somethig is changed in my brain.
    5.No intrest in life because i am not getting satisfaction or pleasure from any activities.
    6.Sucide thoughts also coming in my mind.
    7.I cant explain what is changed in my mind

    Due to this my personal,professional and married life is totally disturbed.6 months before i started treatment from one of the psychatrist in pune (Mr.chandorkar) for near about 5 months.but i felt only 5 to 10 % improvement and also got severe side effects.So i stopped treatment.and now i am taking hypnosys tratment from last 2 months but there is no improvement.

    Actually i would like to know that with above symptoms, what type of mental disorder is this?and how to come out of this?I think proper dignosis is very important in this.I would greatly appreciate if you will help me to come out of this.Also suggest me a good psychaitrist in pune,Maharashtra so that i will start treatment.



    Dinesh, I am sorry to hear about your condition. But I am afraid I am not the right person. I know very little about these things, I am just a writer. I think you should approach a reputed hospital and they will direct you. I personally do not know of a psychiatrist. I wish you all the best. I am sure you will be cured. – Nita.

    • November 17, 2009 7:39 am

      Hi Dinesh,

      An excellent psychiatrist in Pune is Dr. Suparna Telang. She consults at Ruby Hall and Jehangir Hospital. Her contact number is 9823084996.

      When suffering from depression and undergoing therapy, it is important to note that you will not see immediate results in your condition. From experience I have realised that one needs to persevere with the treatment. It is important that you have faith in your doctor.

      All the best for your future.


      • Kevin S permalink
        January 5, 2010 10:17 am

        Hi Mihir.

        I’ve noticed that you have been recommending Dr. Suparna Telang, time an time again. I am in need of some professional counselling, but I wish to refrain from visiting a quack. I know there is no way to validate your claim, but are you absolutely sure that she is qualified enough to help me out? More than qualifications, there has to be a certain element of humanity in the doctor. Is she a “sensing”person? And finally, can she communicate in English effectively? I find it the most convenient to express myself in the English language, so it is absolutely imperative that she communicate effectively in the same language… i would appreciate it if you could reply as soon as possible.

        • Mihir permalink
          January 5, 2010 7:00 pm

          Hi Kevin,

          Dr Telang is qualified, humane and communicates well in English. Be assured.


  17. November 17, 2009 10:03 pm

    Hi mihir,

    Thanks for your reply.
    As i am facing sex problem also,so i think taking treatment from female is not comfortable for me.i cant explain details about that problem to lady.So if u will know any male psychitrist then please inform me.


    • Mihir permalink
      January 5, 2010 7:08 pm

      Hi Dinesh,

      You have a valid reason for choosing not to go to a female counsellor.

      I am unaware of any male counsellors in Pune. However Dr. Telang will direct you to a competent one. My suggestion is to speak with her about your situation and take it from there. Her number is 9823084996.

      All the best.


  18. November 17, 2009 10:04 pm

    hi neeta,
    Thanks for your reply.

  19. January 5, 2010 7:54 pm


    This is a test msg.

  20. seeniya permalink
    January 25, 2010 11:45 am

    Hi friendz !!

    My life took a 360 turn since last 2 years !! i am undergoing depression due to pressure from my family relationship stress and professional disatisfaction . itz put my confidence low and now i hate to go out in public. i have even got inferiority complex! i end up being alone all the tiome and i have trust issues with close people !! !i can see that i am no more the same person who i wz 2 years back!! i need help from a good physiatrist or a depression therapist !! i do wish to go to a professional !!! please do recomend me some good therapist who is in pune or mumbai as i am settled in pune !!
    thank you

  21. deeptii permalink
    January 28, 2012 4:07 pm

    Hi all,

    I am need of mental support. I am going thru a bad phase in my love life.I had been into relation past 7 years & last month i came to know that the person was having another affair…but he is still with me..i am scared of loosing him i cant sleep dnt eat properply.after knowing that i was cheated my confident level went down. I feel that i am looser a failure in my life.I love this person a lot but every sec every min i am scared of loosing him. Sometimes i go crazy & started talking to my ownself or feel like hurting myself when i am alone.i dont know what should i do…i am not able to come out of this!!!

    • January 29, 2012 6:38 pm

      There is no doubt that this person does not love you. I agree that if you already love him its hard to suddenly shut off the feelings but that is what you have to aim for. You need to break off this relationship immediately. Yes, you will suffer, maybe for months or maybe longer, but at least you will not suffer for the rest of your life! When one is betrayed by a loved one it is natural to have feelings of depression, but remember that the person who betrays is the one without character. Not you. Use your mind, not your heart. Forget this man. Go for counselling if you cannot handle it yourself. Get support from good friends or an understanding adult you know.

  22. puja banerjee permalink
    November 21, 2017 3:55 pm

    I am suffering from insomnia..after a trauma..I think I have very much recovered it due to support of my family..and back to my normal life..But can’t recover from insomnia..and it’s creating generalised anxiety disorder..How should i get help?

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