Temas de Capa

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saúde mental

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Por vezes não há uma razão evidente, noutras situações a justificação até pode ser facilmente encontrada, mas quando uma qualquer forma de doença mental – estado depressivo, ansiedade extrema, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, ideação suicida… – atinge um dos filhos, os pais ficam muitas vezes perdidos, sem saber lidar com a situação, não raras vezes culpando-se por considerarem que de algum modo falharam no acompanhamento da sua cria.

Por outro lado, com o conhecimento do que se passa à nossa volta é natural que os pais de crianças, pré-adolescentes e adolescentes se preocupem com a eventualidade de os seus filhos virem a sofrer com alguma destas doenças. E sentem que é preciso encontrar um equilíbrio entre o “todos nós passámos por isso” e por isso “isto há-de passar” e o acompanhar de perto o estado emocional dos seus filhos, o estar alerta sem sufocar o seu crescimento.

Os testemunhos que podem ler nesta edição do Milénio são de pais e mães reais, sendo que preferiram o anonimato. Pais, avós, educadores… a todos sugiro a leitura atenta do que aqui se conta. Quem sabe assim podem perceber que algo não está bem, que precisam de observar melhor os comportamentos dos mais novos para os poderem ajudar, ou então, por comparação, ficam com a tranquilidade de perceber que está tudo bem.

Madalena Balça/MS


One of your children has had some mental health problems. Can you explain what kind of problems and the reasons behind them?
My son has developed ADHD as well as depression and anxiety recently, all attributed a life-threatening illness he had earlier in his life. His focus deteriorated as a result of his treatment and left us with not many options to have him do as well as he could in school.
He was put on medication to help him focus which helped him academically but brought out a common side effect which plagued him for much of his first year of high school. Our son developed dark thoughts, regressed social interactions and a negative change in behaviour.

When did you realize that something more worrying was happening?
As a result of all we went through with him during his treatment and the adverse reactions to some of his medications, we because very fine-tuned to things that were out of the normal with him, we were always looking for things that weren’t right.
What really triggered everything to be serious was when he started Math in high school, Sick Kids hospital had warned us that he was going to have problems with Math, but they didn’t really prepare us for how much that would affect him psychologically.
He felt inferior to everyone else which brought on depression, then compounded by the medication he was taking to help him focus. He developed very dark thoughts of self-harming and suicide. The lucky thing we had, was that he recognized that something was wrong and confirm it, he asked for help.

How did you deal with the situation?
It got so bad last year that his pediatrician, principal, special needs teacher, all 4 teachers and Hospital for Sick Kids all got involved. This greatly affected my wife as well as she struggled with so much when he had a critical illness earlier in his life, this all brought everything back to her in terms of fearing losing him again.
We have gotten him help, adjusted medications as well as added medication to help combat the dark thoughts, he also speaks to a psychiatrist as does my wife. It was a point where we had to worry about the human rather than the academics and the support group that rallied around him was exactly what he needed.

At the moment, what kind of follow-up/monitoring do you do on your child’s mental health?
The biggest thing without a doubt is talking to him every day, asking what’s going on, how his day went. He is very receptive to us and holds nothing back from us, he lets us know when things are hard, when he deals with comments from other students that bother him as well as interactions with his teachers that he needs help with.
He also sees his team at Sick Kids as well as his pediatrician to follow along with how he is responding to his medication and how he rationalizes with everything else around him. His new teachers this semester have all been brought up to speed on his situation as well and are all so supportive.

Did your other children realize what was going on? If so, how did they deal with it?
They did see things when they were at their worst and they would hide in bed, crying when it was heavy with our son. They asked me what was going on and I did my best to explain to them what was happening in ways they would best understand and not worrying about things. They took the explanation and accepted all would be ok.
They have though without a doubt been the happiest core in the house just being kids and playing with their toys, really the happy medium that myself, my wife and our older son would go to as a breath of fresh air. They were unknowingly so instrumental in all of us moving past the worst of times.

For other parents… What are the red flag signs to look out for?
Every situation is different, so many times parents are often surprised to find out some thing is wrong. Depending on the relationship with your child, things may be easier to see instantly, but more often than not, the subject of how school is going or how friends are doing brings about a different response with their body language. Head down, turning away and change in tone when we asked how school was let me know something wasn’t right, it was an instant change in behavior.
Seeing him retreat to his room after school and staying there for extended lengths was also a big sign. It is hard to rationalize with them when we see how small their problems seem to us, but it is so important to remember that their world is as big to them as ours is to us.
Every problem which looks trivial to us, is desperate to them. They have not gone through so much in life yet, so if we don’t go to their level and understand their feelings, we may not get the connection to work through it together. It is vital to have them trust we are concerned and looking to help them.


Tem dois filhos, em fases diferentes de desenvolvimento. Ao longo do seu crescimento tem percebido algum tipo de perturbação de saúde mental?
Não posso considerar uma perturbação de saúde mental, mas houve mudança de comportamento de ambos.

Tanto quanto sei a sua filha frequentou uma escola em Toronto que teve problemas sérios de segurança. Notou que de algum modo a estabilidade emocional e mental dela foi afetada? Ou tem receio que isso possa ainda vir a acontecer?
Depois de uma situação traumática é normal que as emoções andem mais à flor da pele. Ela ficou abalada durante uns dias, como seria de se esperar, mas com a nossa ajuda (pais) superou… a bem dizer, superámos juntos. Felizmente, ela é uma jovem forte e corajosa, e penso que este evento em particular, não deixou marcas profundas que possam a reabrir no futuro.

Já o seu filho tem sofrido bullying. Como é que ele tem lidado com essa situação? Está preocupada com eventuais perturbações de saúde mental no futuro?
O caso do meu filho já é mais complicado e não tem sido fácil encontrar um balanço entre ser mãe “galinha” e mãe “racional”.
Na minha experiência a vítima nem sempre, neste caso o meu filho, é protegida. Infelizmente, os diretores e os professores têm uma grande dificuldade em aceitar que têm alunos bullies, pois aceitar essa realidade é sinónimo de que eles estão a falhar em alguma coisa.
Entre investigações escolares internas e conversas com os intervenientes, a vítima continua a conviver diariamente com o agressor ou agressores, que continuam a fazer bullying – pois sabem que nada vai acontecer, para além de uma conversa com os pais ou chamada de atenção. É muito injusto!
Neste momento o meu filho está em casa, enquanto decorre uma dessas investigações internas e o menino que esbofeteou o meu filho mais os três meninos que o empurraram, o desafiaram para uma luta, o perseguiram até casa, invadiram a entrada de casa e deram murros na porta (tudo gravado pelas câmaras de segurança!), continuam a ir para a escola. Ele não quer voltar para aquela escola, nem sequer ver os meninos… ele nem sabe como lidar com a situação, pois o bullying nunca tinha chegado “às vias de facto”. Então, depois disto tudo aos 12 anos, eu estou muito preocupada que isto possa desencadear alguma perturbação de saúde mental.

Pode dizer-nos que estratégia usa para ir acompanhando e observando o comportamento dos seus filhos?
A estratégia passa por conversar com eles e estar atenta com quem falam e o que falam, incluindo nos jogos interativos. Acredito também que não posso ser mãe “helicóptero” e controlar tudo, mesmo que queira, é impossível!
Nas mudanças de comportamento, ajo consoante a situação. E, para a minha sanidade mental, tenho que confiar que a educação, amor e atenção que lhes dou também lhes dê a segurança que eles precisam.


Como carateriza o seu filho? É um jovem fechado, comunicativo, sociável…?
O meu filho é tímido, reservado com quem ele não conhece, mas tem um bom sentido de humor com as pessoas com quem se sente bem. Ele está numa fase complicada, onde se fecha no mundo dele, onde o refúgio dele são os amigos.

Como mãe de um jovem adolescente, que geralmente é uma fase de vida de grandes dúvidas e, por vezes, de falta de confiança neles próprios, que tipo de preocupações tem?
Preocupo-me bastante pois está a passar uma fase em que ele acha que os amigos é que sabem tudo. O meu filho acha que já sabe o que é a vida, e hoje em dia os adolescentes acho que se deixam influenciar uns pelos outros. Preocupo-me muito com o futuro dele devido ao mundo em que vivemos.
Pode dizer-nos que estratégia usa para ir acompanhando e observando o comportamento do seu filho?
Não tenho nenhuma estratégia. Falo bastante com ele, sou mãe e amiga, então há um balanço entre a nossa ligação, onde há limites, respeito, e dou-lhe espaço e liberdade para ele ser adolescente.
Tem algum receio que o seu filho desenvolva algum quadro de algum tipo de problema de saúde mental?
Sim, sem dúvida alguma, mas a comunicação é muito importante em casa, e estar sempre atenta a tudo.
Alguma vez sentiu o seu filho deprimido? Se sim… em que circunstância?
Não ao ponto de achar que ele estivesse com depressão. Pode ter sim dias em que esteja mais em baixo, mas isso todos temos, faz parte da vida, nem tudo na vida é perfeito. Mas mostro sempre ao meu filho que pode contar comigo e que estarei ao lado dele para o bem e para o mal.


How do you characterize your child? Is he/she closed off, communicative, sociable…?
My child is quiet and uncomfortable in social settings. He will speak when spoken to but will keep the conversation short and will not elaborate. He is polite but reserved.

As the mother/father of a young teenager, which is generally a stage in life of great doubt and sometimes a lack of self-confidence, what kind of worries do you have?
I worry that my child will not be socially comfortable and confident as he often hides behind a cell phone on social media apps. He spends a lot of time on the device on various platforms watching other people and are influenced by the images and activities that they see. I worry that he will not be independent and will rely on us as their parents to help them with everyday struggles/decision making.

Have you ever detected any mental health problems in your child? If so, can you describe the signs that made you realize that something wasn’t right?
We noticed at the beginning of high school that he was more confident and were excited for all of the changes that were occurring. Then about 2 to 3 months into the first year he began to struggle with the workload and the expectations from the teacher, this is where we saw the personality change and the anxiety begin. As his parents, we looked into getting them outside resources to help with their workload struggle which seemed to be working. Then in his second year of school COVID began, and the anxiety came back but this time it affected his ability to have any motivation to do any work or even function with daily routines. The depression from not being able to leave the house and interact with other people really affected his mental health.

What worries you most and how have you dealt with the situation?
What worries us the most is that he will not be able to live his life without always feeling sad, anxious and without purpose. We worry that our child may have suicidal thoughts. We worry that he will never have the confidence to be able to resolve daily challenges without feeling helpless and useless.

How have you accompanied your child since you realized that something wasn’t right?
We reached out to a therapist that specializes in mental health issues in youth. We setup regular weekly meetings with the therapist and with their help made a safe space for our child to be able to share their feelings and thoughts. Together, we helped our child navigate through their ups and downs and then as they seemed to be making progress, we modified the schedule to bi-weekly then to monthly meetings. After 18 months our child finally felt that he didn’t need to go to see the therapist anymore as he had the tools and resources to help them navigate through his daily struggles. As a family we all helped to support our child with his mental health struggle.

For other parents… What are the red flag signs to look out for?
Look for behavioral changes, look for changes in their eating habits, their school habits, look for physical changes in them, look at their sleep schedule – overall, you know your child better than anyone if you notice a major change you need to talk to your child to see if they are struggling. They may not be willing to discuss their issues with you directly so you may need to look for some professional help to support your child. You can always discuss your concerns with your family doctor as they should be able to provide you with referrals or direct you to the resources that may be helpful. Also, you can also reach out to the guidance office/administrative staff at your child’s school as they may also have resources on site to help your child or may be able to direct you to other resources that may be helpful. At the end of the day, you as their parent must always love and support your child, you must patience and understand that they don’t want to be suffering from mental health issues and just want to be happy and healthy.


How do you characterize your child? Is he/she closed off, communicative, sociable…?
He is very shy and introverted. It takes time for him to open up to people.

As the mother/father of a young teenager, which is generally a stage in life of great doubt and sometimes a lack of self-confidence, what kind of worries do you have?
My son is a sensitive teenager and always feels that he is not good enough. I worry that he feels that he will lean into those feelings and starts to believe that they are true.

Have you ever detected any mental health problems in your child? If so, can you describe the signs that made you realize that something wasn’t right?
Yes, I have detected mental health issues with my child. He would become angry and very depressed. He also stopped communicating with me.

What worries you most and how have you dealt with the situation?
At that point, I was worried that he was going to hurt himself and as a result, I had him go into counseling right away along with getting a referral to a psychiatrist. I wanted to get him all the help he needed.

How have you accompanied your child since you realized that something wasn’t right?
I have kept the communication open and talked to him about what is going on within his life. It may have seemed pushy and forced at times, however it really helped and now he knows that he can come to me and trust me that I will support him in every way he needs.

For other parents… What are the red flag signs to look out for?
I would look for changes in behavior. If your child starts acting out of the ordinary like becoming very angry or sad or even stops talking. Just make sure that when you communicate, don’t do it out of fear and anger. Make sure that you speak to them calmly and parent in love.

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