Age at interview: 53
Background: Julie is 53 years old and lives in an inner metropolitan suburb with her husband and two children, aged 18 and 15. She identifies as Australian, and works part-time in the finance services industry.
Julie and her husband have cared for their daughter since she was diagnosed with depression when she was 16. Now 18, Julie's daughter consulted a psychiatrist in the past and presently sees a psychologist. Julie and her husband have supported their daughter to access mental health services and, recently, her decision to follow her passion for performing.
More about Julie
Over the past three years, Julie said she and her husband have learned to 'let go' of their feelings of 'guilt' about their teenage daughter's depression and to focus instead on 'listening' to what she tells them she is experiencing.
Julie recalled she could not 'quite understand' what 'it' was her then 15-year-old daughter was trying to tell her when she said she felt depressed. Julie had thought someone who was depressed was 'sad all the time' and her daughter seemed to be 'functioning as normal'. About 12 months later, Julie's daughter started having trouble 'getting out of bed', could not complete her homework and felt tired 'all the time'. This prompted Julie to take her to get her iron levels checked by their GP who diagnosed her with depression, which came as a 'shock' to Julie.
Julie's daughter began seeing a psychiatrist every week who prescribed antidepressants and, a few months later, started seeing a psychologist who worked with cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). She stopped seeing her psychiatrist after a while, Julie said, because she felt she benefited more from the strategies her psychologist gave her to use 'day to day'. About two years later, and backed by their daughter's psychologist, Julie and her husband supported their daughter's decision in year twelve to leave school, which had made her feel 'stressed and under pressure'. She is now pursuing her passion for performing on stage.
For the first 12 months of her daughter becoming 'unwell', Julie said, she and her husband felt 'really bad' because they did not know where to turn to get help to understand what their daughter was going through. She said her daughter's psychiatrist provided them with minimal information and did not listen to Julie's concern that her daughter's condition was deteriorating. By contrast, Julie appreciated the way her daughter's psychologist gave her advice about 'structures she could put in place at home', and her willingness to hear 'feedback' from Julie about how she thought her daughter was doing.
When young people are referred to a therapist, Julie believes their family should also be referred to a support service, like the carers organisation she found after 'floundering around' for about a year. Through this organisation, she went to workshops, accessed counselling services, and made contacts who gave her advice about how to support her daughter's treatment. Julie feels it is important to 'educate parents' about 'what to look out for' when their children are of high school age so they can respond more quickly to early symptoms of possible mental health problems. She said it is still a 'source of hurt' to her that she did not take the 'steps she now knows' she should have taken when her daughter first told her she felt depressed.
Julie's daughter is now 'in a good place', Julie said. She and her husband feel 'very pleased and relieved' that they were able to support her to make some 'positive decisions for her life and where she wants to go'.