[Steve and friend are watching Steve’s son Max playing sport]
Friend: Oh, that’s a bit unlike Maxy. He doesn’t seem to be on the ball today, like usual. Everything okay?
Steve: No, mate, he’s not himself of late. Don’t know what’s wrong with him. In fact, I’m a bit worried about him.
Friend: Come on, what’s up?
Steve: Oh, he flies off the handle at a drop of a hat, doesn’t want to go out much, not even with his mates. Just wants to stay in his room all the time. Don’t know, mate. I had to drag him out to sports today. It’s not like him to not want to play.
Friend: Nate mentioned he thought Maxy was a bit down in the dumps at school. Has this been going on for a while?
Steve: About five or six weeks, yeah. But there’s been a lot going on for him. Something’s not right. It’s not normal teenage moody blues to want to mope and sleep all the time, is it? He’s off his food, as well.
Friend: That’s a bit of a worry. It’s hard to talk about things like this with your kids and find out what’s really going on.
Steve: Mate, I don’t know how. Every time I say anything to him, he just shrugs it off and goes into his room and I end up giving him a lecture and he just gets mad and walks away. I don’t know. I’m beginning to wonder if he might not be a bit depressed or something.
Friend: Yeah, it sounds a bit more than your normal teenage moodiness.
Steve: I don’t know what to do. I’m at my wit’s end. It’s a long time since I was a teenager, can’t remember any of this stuff happening.
Friend: Mate, I haven’t seen you this worried before. Go with your gut on this, I reckon. Get it looked at. Just let him know that you’re worried and you want to know how to help, nothing else. Sometimes Nate and I have our best talks when we’re driving somewhere together or when we’re washing up.
Steve: Yeah. Thanks, mate. I might try that chat in the car on the way home.
Professor Gary Walter AM (Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychology, University of Sydney): Dad, Steve, has noticed some changes of mood and behaviour in his teenage son, Max. Max has been withdrawing from activities he usually loves, sleeping a lot, not eating as much and talking less. Dad’s feeling out of his depth and doesn’t know if it’s normal teenage moodiness or depression. He wants to help but is not sure what to do next. Steve makes a brave move and confides in a mate. This can be a really useful first step. Sometimes the very act of describing something can help that person get a clearer picture. This happens here as Steve describes to his mate what’s troubling him about Max’s behaviour. Steve’s mate demonstrates listening and understanding. He allows Steve to work through his thoughts and offers some ideas about what to do next. We see that Steve has been helped by his mate’s approach.
Steve: The team were right on their game today. Look, mate, I’m just going to come right out and say it… I’m really worried about you. I’ve noticed that you seem sad and angry all the time. Is there something I can help you with? I know things have been tough since your Mum and I went our separate ways and with school and all. I get that you’re under a lot of pressure. It’s okay to feel stressed out every now and then but mate, this has been going on for too long. I’m your Dad, mate, I care about you. I just want to help.
Max: Okay. I feel like crap. I can’t do it anymore, I can’t be bothered. I just want to be normal again.
Steve: It’s going to be okay, Maxy. I’m worried about you. I’d like you to come and see someone with me, so we can work out what’s going on for you and get it sorted out.
Max: Hmm. Yeah, I don’t know. Okay. I was looking online at the websites about depression and stuff. What if I’m a depresso, Dad?
Steve: It happens a lot, mate. If it is depression there’s ways to manage it. And you know what, we’ll deal with it and we’ll get through it together. You’ll be fine.
Professor Gary Walter AM: Steve then tells Max, in a gentle and direct way, that he has some understanding about the stress Max has been experiencing. Steve tells his son he’s worried about him; that he cares and wants to help. Steve’s warm and non- judgemental approach allows Max to talk with his Dad and together they decide to take the next step in finding help.