Will has never been mistaken for a social butterfly. “Even in preschool he was always a little withdrawn. He’d play by himself when other kids would be playing together,” says his mom, Angie Duray. But the Maryland mom never worried until the summer Will turned 7, when his introversion at school gave way to a seething anger at home. “He was constantly upset and took to screaming, throwing things, and slamming doors,” she recalls.
Even more distressing was the self-loathing. He’d say things like he wished he could “jump into hot lava,” and after an argument with his brother one day, Will climbed up on the couch and started to wind a venetian-blind cord around his neck. A panicked Angie discovered him and took action: She found a child psychiatrist who diagnosed Will with depression.
Taking medication and using other coping strategies helped, but as is common with mental illness, Will sometimes regressed. In the midst of one particularly dark mood, he tied the belt of Angie’s bathrobe tightly around his neck. Will ran to find her, his face turning purple as she tried to untie the knot. “I had just been outside walking the dog. What if I had stopped to talk to a neighbor? My son might not be here today,” she says.
But Will is here, and at age 10, he is healthier than he’s been in years. Since his depression diagnosis, he’s been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia. His school has worked with Angie to make accommodations that help him thrive. He also sees his psychiatrist regularly and takes medication. “We want to instill in him the notion that he may see a doctor and be on medication his entire life, but that that’s not a bad thing,” says Angie. “He has the love and support of his family. I think—I hope—that will make a big difference.”
Read more from the Parents feature "There's Something Wrong With My Child"