It’s more than homesickness. It’s more than a bad day, or a bad mood. It’s depression, and it’s a serious disorder.
Is there anything a host parent can do to help?
I am a host mom in transition. My au pair had been here 8 months and left suddenly, stopping work abruptly and leaving my family. About a month earlier we had had “the talk” — you know, the one where you reset expectations, where you say shape up or ship out. We gave it two weeks and at the end of it she wanted to stay and I had seen sufficient improvement that I could commit to her staying too.
Then, suddenly, she called in sick one morning, and after I had dropped off my child at school, she said she was leaving within the week. She cited medical reasons. And she left two days later. She left 33 calendar days before a huge career deadline. She gave no notice.
I suspected for months that our Au Pair was depressed.
I had been in contact with our LCC, who said the AP had stopped going to cluster meetings and hanging out with the other APs in the cluster.
I gave the AP an extended vacation (15 days at 7 months) and every weekend off, so she could have some time to herself and with her (new, American) boyfriend.
But when I asked the LCC about whether there is any mental health support for APs, she said there is none. She suggested we sit AP down and convince her to seek mental health services on her own and pay out of pocket. I declined: the last thing a depressed girl needs is to be sat down at my dining room table and told she’s depressed and she’s alone in fixing it. I don’t think the LCC actually knew of any ways to help.
Our AP’s health and mood continued to deteriorate. In the end, she complained of sleeplessness and oversleep, pains all over her body, fatigue, and anxious thoughts. (cv’s note: all of these are symptoms of clinical depression in teens.)
Now that I’m in transition, I’m looking back at my experience with AP and feeling terrified of bringing another AP into my home and watching her deteriorate from depression.
What do I do if I see the same things happening again? The LCC never suggested rematch (until our “shape up” probationary talk), and though I’ve read on this site that some host parents will rematch for depression, I don’t want to do that. I think there’s got to be a better way.
What kinds of advice can you give for a host mom who sees signs of depression in an AP?
And how do I personally move on from this experience?
Image: Sad kitten on Flickr