How to Help a Newly Injured Child with Depression

No one wants to see their child suffer. Having someone you love go through a significant injury can be incredibly difficult, especially when depression occurs in the aftermath.

Many people with new spinal cord injuries need help with their mental health. Should your child go to a therapist right away or are there other things you can try first? From medication considerations to self-help ideas, here are tips for parents of those with new spinal cord injuries.

How to Help a Newly Injured Child with Depression

Medication & Therapy

More than ever before, mental health medication is accepted as one of the best ways to help people suffering from depression. Therapy is popular as well. If you want to see if medication helps, reach out to a doctor for a consult. One popular mental health medication however that many people recommend is venlafaxine. This treats both anxiety and depression.

Other medications that people with spinal cord injuries have found success with are sertraline, bupropion, clonidine and clonazepam. It's important to know however that there is no magic pill that will cure anyone of depression and that many mental health medications have a 50/50 success rate, with side effects. If you want your child to try therapy, try looking for a therapist with experience speaking to people with spinal cord injuries. Note: This can be difficult to find.

Get Outside

Many people with spinal cord injuries have reported their depression eased once they began going outside regularly. There have been many studies that have proven that going outdoors can have a tremendous effect on mental health. While many outdoor locations may seem inaccessible, do your research and try to find beaches, hiking trails or parks that are wheelchair-friendly, and have your child go outside daily if possible.

Peer Support

While therapists/psychologists can help, nothing beats peer support since no one else truly understands what it's like to be paralyzed. For many young people with spinal cord injuries, seeing a therapist can sometimes have a negative effect since they do not understand. Time and time again people with spinal cord injuries report a huge change in their mental health once they speak to people like them who understand.

Through these peer support relationships, they're able to learn tips, tricks and more for living their new life. And you do not have to live in a large city to have access to a peer support group for your child. There are many online peer support groups for people with spinal cord injuries. Click here to find one near you:

Adaptive Sports

Wheelchair/quad rugby is the quintessential therapy sport. If you could take a poll of people with spinal cord injuries, quad rugby by far would be the number one sport that has changed people's mindsets after their injury. The sport can be played by both quadriplegics and paraplegics (some arm movement is required) and by all genders. It is highly welcoming and the camaraderie is what sets it apart.

Other sports however have been just as beneficial to people with spinal cord injuries. Some of the most exciting sports that people tend to gravitate towards are adaptive skiing (also known as sit-skiing), wheelchair basketball, wheelchair racing, adaptive mountain biking, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair pickleball, and adaptive water skiing, but there are hundreds of other sports out there. Hopefully, there is a sport your child will be interested in. And, once they find a sport, contact the national organization representing the sport to find the nearest opportunities to play.

Not only is getting physical a great aspect of adaptive sports, the social aspect can be just as huge. Many people report learning important life lessons, such as how to transfer from teammates, as well as other things they weren’t able to master for whatever reason in rehabilitation.


Spinal cord injury documentaries can be a hit or miss, but if you watch the right ones, they can be transformative to anyone with a new injury experiencing depression. Watching someone with a spinal cord injury go through the muck and then come through can be healing. One of these documentaries is "An Accidental Life." Made in 2022, it tells the story of mountain climber Quinn Brett, who fell and broke her back while climbing Yosemite, and her recovery afterward.

"Move Me," which also debuted in 2022, follows the story of a dancer who broke her neck in a diving accident and how she rediscovered herself after her injury. And if your child is an athlete, they may appreciate "Murderball," a 2005 documentary that followed the US quad rugby team as they made their way to an international tournament. Make sure to avoid overly "cheesy" documentaries. Anyone young will not respond well to these types of docs.


Exercise is one of the greatest weapons in the battle against depression, especially when someone has a spinal cord injury. Initially, after an injury, it can be overwhelming at home and exercise can fall by the wayside. However, do not let this happen to your child. If outpatient/additional therapy at some kind of gym is not possible, help your child set up an at-home adaptive exercise regimen doing something as simple as following wheelchair workouts on YouTube or purchasing adaptive exercise equipment such as the Vitaglide, and incorporating standing frame use weekly.

There have been multiple studies that have proven that exercise helps release endorphins, which can help with mood and staying positive. So make sure your child gets moving on a regular basis (3-4x week).

Find a Purpose

After a spinal cord injury, it can be easy to get wrapped up in your own problems and issues and forget the outside world. Even if your child is young, it is important to help instill in them a greater purpose whatever that may be, so they can think beyond their injury, which can be drowning. A great example of this is people taking up wheelchair donations and helping give wheelchairs to people in need in countries around the world.

It can take years for people with spinal cord injuries to find a sense of happiness after their injury. Sometimes time needs to pass, up to 2 or more years for some, to realize some of the truths of life, such as being grateful, thinking beyond oneself, and finding peace despite not having exactly what one desires. It's not an easy road, but your child is fortunate to have you there as a parent supporting them.

Topics: Parenting

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