Just 2-1/2 years Old, and already Depressed
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09 June 2010
Veena loves her doll. The doll turns into a bubbly little girl under her indulgent eyes and she is the mother. She pampers it silly and would never let it out of sight. Normal for a two–and–a–half–year–old girl. Right?
Wrong. Veena suffers from childhood depression. It’s rare for someone her age to get into such a complication–the condition is known to occur in the 6–10 age group, but two–and–a–half is rare.
Under treatment at the KEM hospital, she and her doll play out a real life situation. Doctors are taking cues from it to cure her. A year ago, Veena’s father lost his job after the multinational bank where he worked decided to close a unit due to the recession. Financial crisis forced her mother to take up a computer operator’s job in a private firm. Deprived of parental attention and alone, Veena slipped into depression six months ago. She refused to eat, play, sleep or even watch television. Worse, she refused to smile.
“When she came to us, she had dark circles around her eyes and her cheeks were shrunken. She refused to smile or make eye contact. She was clinging to her parents and refused to let go of them,”said Dr Shubhangi Parkar, head of department of psychological medicine. Veena was severely malnourished and underweight at the time, she added.
The team of doctors attempted to break the ice with Veena by offering her toys and chocolates but it didn’t work. “She was put in three different crches but she did not interact with the kids and sat looking out of the window the whole day,”Veena’s mother told the doctors.
The doctors soon learnt that Veena was craving for attention from her mother. It also did not help that her parents had fights in front of her. “Her parents had a love marriage and her grandmother refused to take care of Veena, making matters worse,”said Parkar.
The first part of the therapy involved improving the mother–daughter relationship. “We asked her mother to take one–month leave so that Veena could feel secure and cared for. Secondly, the parents were asked to completely stop beating her,”said Parkar.
The doctors then started the play therapy where Veena was involved in games and toys. “We learnt that she was very close to her doll. She never left the doll alone and did everything with the doll which she wanted her mother to do with her,”said Prakar, who advised the mother to watch Veena’s interactions with the doll and behave similarly. Prakar is now working towards preparing Veena to cope with the situation when mother returns to work.
Veena has gained some weight now. She does not cry much now and is less irritable; she even asks for food. “She weighed only 8 kg when she came to us. Now she is 10 kg and her parents are happy that she asks for food,”said Dr Chetan Vispute, who is involved in Veena’s treatment. “We have asked the parents to give only nutritious food,”he added.
According to the doctors, Veena has very high level of intellectual maturity. She is sharp and her grasping powers are good. “We are working towards getting her to the normal behaviour,”said Parkar.