Question: Can a parent or guardian compel a child or adolescent to receive treatment for depression against his or her will?
Answer: All parents want their children to be healthy. In situations where a child is suffering from a depression and is refusing to participate in treatment, parents need to approach this in several ways.
First, if there's an immediate danger -- meaning a child is suffering from active thoughts of wanting to hurt himself or herself, or kill themselves, himself or herself, or they're hurting themselves, then parents need to compel the child into treatment; they have an obligation just like they would for other health concerns.
This would also apply if a child is experiencing symptoms of psychosis -- feeling paranoid or hearing things, having fixed, false beliefs -- those types of symptoms, really where a child may not have their rational mind.
However, in other situations, we know that where there's less severe depressions, we know that the treatment of depression is really a collaborative process, so the real process is going through and helping the child understand and come to accept that, in fact, what is happening to them and what they're experiencing is a depression.
The treatment of depression is not a passive process, and we need to really have the collaboration of the healthcare provider, the child and the family.
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