TEENAGE DEPRESSION

Photo by Alec Douglas on Unsplash


Annie was found strangled and raped and was pronounced dead by police who arrived at the scene. Her post mortem revealed that she had lost her virginity. There was evidence of rape. The pathologist found no sign of struggle except for petechia (blood spots) on her ears which usually is a sign of strangulation together with red marks on her neck indicating strangulation under the hands of another. Annie’s mother claimed her corpse. Annie never knew who her father was. Her mother was a prostitute. Annie was 14 years old when she died.


Annie was referred to the school Counsellor by her teacher. She was always late to class, always day dreaming, always looking sleepy with unkempt hair and looked perpetually sad. If she was irritated by the slightest thing, she would slap or pull the hair of the person whom she considers irritating her. Her teacher rightly felt that Annie had very low self-esteem and sent her for Counselling.


To her Counsellor, (a female) Annie’s case was one of the most difficult she has had to manage. Annie was stubbornly quiet during the first phase of storytelling, it would take about ten minutes before she would respond to her Counsellor’s question. Her Counsellor diagnosed her as being on the onset of depression. She was concerned because she had increasingly been referred cases of teenagers at the onset of depression. This was an unhealthy trend and she was determined to help such teenagers, as the current mind-set of society appears to have neglected the whole subject of depression among teenagers, wrongly believing, that depression only is the monopoly of adults, as only adults can be stressed out. It is commonly believed in the past that “Children” are resilient and cannot be stressed out. Parents consequently ignore signs of early depression passing it off, he/she is only a child. In Annie’s case, it was her teacher who detected these symptoms… but… was it too late?


Annie’s Counsellor visited Annie environment. She had been living with her single mother in a single room low cost flat. She had never seen her father. The Counsellor was sad when told by Annie’s mother, that she herself did not know who Annie’s father was. She was already a street prostitute for some time when she discovered she was pregnant. She had seen a back street Quack who performed an ‘abortion’ procedure on her. There was massive bleeding, which never stopped followed by spotting for three days. The doctor in the Government hospital told her that she was still pregnant and that the child was surprisingly healthy! Her abortion procedure was unsuccessful. Fearing the pain of a second attempt at abortion, she had carried on with her pregnancy. She cannot remember which client of hers was Annie’s father.


As a single mother she tried her best to raise Annie. All she could do was to sell her services with tools nature had provided her with. Annie was left alone in the evenings as her mother started ‘work’ only after 5 pm. Soon her mother became an alcoholic and then on to drug addiction. She always advised Annie that Annie should do something about her life and not be like her. She often cried and confessed to Annie that she did know what is best for Annie or how to raise Annie up in a better environment.


No couple that Annie’s mother approached was prepared to adopt Annie, knowing that Annie’s mother was a long term prostitute. She was embarrassed to take Annie to the Social Services Department, as she had heard that parents who do not take care of their children could be arrested and prosecuted. She simply let things be, she confessed to the Counsellor.


Back in the therapy room the Counsellor could not get Annie to open up. She was thirteen years, but had all the physical attributes of a grown woman. She was, on top of that, very pretty. The Counsellor was consequently concerned that Annie would follow her mother’s footsteps.


Getting Annie to tell her story, was almost impossible. Her Counsellor was patient and realized that because of Annie’s background, Annie could not trust anybody or even respect them. Annie was so full of hatred for society that she stayed in her own private world. However, her mind was a busy film studio where the direction, producer, actors and production people was just in a single mind, hers! She indulged in private conversations all the time. This observation of Annie was the result of her Counsellor deliberately making her angry, so angry that she will burst out with curse words and phrases and unconsciously she will play out these imagery productions. It was this that led the Counsellor to the private film studio of Annie’s.


“Why does Annie use the Hokkien curse word ‘*****’ so often?” The Counsellor asked Annie’s mother. Annie mother’s face went red with embarrassment and explained that when she was depressed and frustrated, she will grumble at her daughter and inevitably end up with that curse which means “go and die!” She admitted that very often, not at all Annie’s fault, she would yell at Annie, curse her ‘*****’ and tell her that she wished her abortion had gone through so that Annie would not be born at all!


Annie’s Counsellor was dumbfounded! She was concerned that Annie’s mother had damaged Annie’s mental well-being irreparably!


Annie’s teacher had provided positive feedback on Annie’s improvement. The Counsellor felt inspired. She was making some impact on Annie. She decided to abort the first phase and to by-pass the second phase of understanding mental management, and move on to the third phase of consolidation-as no further story telling was forthcoming from Annie. In the third phase she will introduce love, care and respect into Annie’s life. Annie improved and would have short ‘question-answer’ conversations with her. At one such session, Annie suddenly had asked her Counsellor “why are you not like mummy. Mummy puts a lot of things on her face and looks pretty. You look ugly!” Trying her best to cover up her surprise and offended feelings, the Counsellor smiled and said “mummy is a very beautiful person. God has given her beauty”. Annie looked at her blankly. This question reflected an unhealthy mental fixation.


Annie had agreed that on a Sunday, the Counsellor and her mother will take her to the movies. She had never been to one before. All three of them were looking forward to this outing.


On Tuesday before that Sunday, the Counsellor’s telephone rang at 6 a.m. it was Annie’s mother, “Annie had been killed!”


Sitting down in the public gallery of the high court, tears streamed down the cheeks of the Counsellor when she heard the judge sum up the proven facts of the killing. After Annie’s mother had left for ‘work’ on Monday at 5p.m., Annie saw her neighbour, a young man immediately across her flat, with his door opened. She went to her mother’s dressing table and put in her mother’s makeup and lipstick, and then went out to the corridor of the flat and pretended to sweep the floor. She smiled at her neighbour and did what she saw her mother do, bring a man to the flat and head for the bed. The Counsellor bit her lips, thinking of her concern for Annie’s mental fixation on face painting, wishing she had done something to address it then!


The man only realized that this 14 year old girl was dead after he got his senses back and found that he had his hands around her neck and was on top of her. He had not realized the strength he had exerted on her neck.


Annie’s Counsellor could not forgive herself for not taking Annie out of her environment that fed her depression and providing therapy for her depression in an environment that was ‘safe’. Annie had decided for the first and tragically last time to play out the drama her mind had produced. A drama influenced by her environment and her mother’s conduct. She paid for this with her life!


Till today, Counsellors studying this tragic case as a case study cannot answer the question,-could therapy, as a matter of fact have saved this poor girl? The only conclusion one can have is that there was a possibility of saving this poor girl, had she been provided therapy at earlier stage. This is as we all wish it to be! We will never know.


For me, perhaps, my lesson here is that for counselling to be effective, there are no short cuts. The four phase methodology of Socio-Dynamic Counselling, needs every bit of time devoted to each phase before Counselling may be effective.


Well, can anything really be perfect in life? We can only try!

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