A Gift or A Curse?
Lin Jiawen was a top student from Xian Middle School, in the city of Xian, Shaanxi province. He had written and published two books about Chinese history, which were widely praised by the Chinese media and academics. His first book, a work of more than 400,000 words, was published while he was in his first few years of secondary school education.
However, no one knew Jiawen was suffering from depression. He had been struggling with depression for some time and was on medication to control it. He sent out emails to his teachers and left a suicide note before leaping to death from his apartment.
Gifted children tend to be highly sensitive and, as a result, they often suffer from existential depression. Existential depression occurs when one confronts issues of existence such as life, death, disease, freedom and oppression. An individual suffering from existential depression questions the meaning of life and often feels it is meaningless. While some people may experience this kind of depression after some traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, gifted people may suffer from it spontaneously; that is, there is no apparent triggering event.
Gifted children can experience existential depression as young as age five. During this time, children may first begin to learn that they are not immortal. The death of a pet, a family member or a tragic event featured in a book or on the news can spark a gifted child's curiosity about death. As a result, the gifted child may begin to worry about death and also question the meaning of life. But, as mentioned above, there may not be an event that sparks a gifted child's existential crisis.
Gifted individuals of all ages have unique traits that may make them vulnerable to existential depression. For example, they not only appreciate nature and see how people and places are interconnected throughout the world, they also take issue with injustice, mistreatment of others and abuses of power. Because gifted individuals feel passionate about such issues, they can feel hopeless when others appear to be unconcerned about oppression, war, poverty and homelessness.
The apparent indifference of others to world issues can lead gifted children and adults to question the meaning of life. Moreover, the fact that people in developing nations are born into predicaments that most people in the Western world can't fathom may lead gifted children to question the fairness of the universe.
There are no simple answers to many of the questions gifted children have about the world, but that doesn't mean parents of gifted children should dismiss their concerns. Parents can help gifted children, first and foremost, by validating their children's feelings and not criticizing them for being "too sensitive."
They can also help children find charities to support or get them involved in volunteer work at a soup kitchen or shelter. Giving back in these ways can help gifted children feel like they're part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
If your gifted child appears inconsolable after pondering the meaning of life, loses interest in her normal routines or begins to withdraw from family and friends, it's important to get help. Observe your child to see if she's experiencing changes in appetite or sleeping habits, cries easily or is frequently anxious. Youth who contemplate suicide need immediate intervention. Treat this depression sign as a medical emergency.
Even if your child has milder symptoms of depression, a mental health professional may be of service. A psychotherapist can help the child walk through her feelings of depression and concerns about life and the world.
Leong Kim Weng is a writer who writes about parenthood's articles. He uses this platform to reach out to the young parents. Writing for www.parentsdojo.com has given him the opportunity to learn and share interesting perspectives with others.