Depression does not only affect adults. Children and young people can get depressed too.
Childhood depression is different from the normal "blues" and everyday emotions that occur as a child develops. Just because a child seems sad doesn't necessarily mean he or she has significant depression . If the sadness becomes persistent, or interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork, or family life, it may indicate that he or she has a depressive illness. Keep in mind that while depression is a serious illness, it is also a treatable one.
The symptoms in children vary. It is often undiagnosed and untreated because they are passed off as normal emotional and psychological changes.
While this does occur, parrticularly in younger children, many children display sadness or low mood similar to adults who are depressed. The primary symptoms of depression revolve around sadness, a feeling of hopelessness, and mood changes.
Signs and symptoms of depression in children include:
Irritability or anger
Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness
Increased sensitivity to rejection
Changes in appetite -- either increased or decreased
Changes in sleep -- sleeplessness or excessive sleep
Vocal outbursts or crying
Fatigue and low energy
Physical complaints (such as stomachaches, headaches) that don't respond to treatment
Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Impaired thinking or concentration
Thoughts of death or suicide
Not all children have all of these symptoms. In fact, most will display different symptoms at different times and in different settings. Although some children may continue to function reasonably well in structured environments, most children with significant depression will suffer a noticeable change in social activities, loss of interest in school and poor academic performance, or a change in appearance.
Although relatively rare in youths under 12, young children do attempt suicide - and may do so impulsively when they are upset or angry. Girls are more likely to attempt suicide, but boys are more likely to actually kill themselves when they make an attempt. Children with a family history of violence, alcohol abuse or physical or sexual abuse are at greater risk for suicide, as are those with depressive symptoms.
Here are few things that can really make a difference:
Recognising whether a young person is simply “being a hormonal, moody teenager” or suffering from depression could usefully be described as the difference between bouts of surly/grumpy behaviour, and unremitting, deep unhappiness over time, with a significant lack of interest in anything at all.
Don’t ignore worrying symptoms, hoping they’ll go away. Talk to your child about the signs of depression that you’ve noticed and voice your concerns in a caring and non-judgmental way. Let them know you will willingly hear about what they are going through.
Trust your gut feeling – you know when something’s just not right.
Avoid asking too many questions, trying to give solutions, dismissing them or glossing over their pain and sadness. Just listen and empathise.
Try again another day if they don’t want to talk about it. Expressing feelings is hard enough at the best of time for teens, when they are depressed it’s even more difficult. Depression is particularly tough for teens.
If not you, then someone else. Encourage them to talk to a school counsellor or trusted teacher, GP, advice services which offer helplines, webchat, emails, text and forums (see where can I get help section below).
Combat isolation by helping to keep connections and communications going. Make opportunities for seeing friends, family; make time to chat regularly; do stuff such as sports, activities, silly and fun things; make music; walk a dog; try to get them involved and interested in something.
Ensure as much of the following as possible: regular physical activity, good nutrition and regular sleep (teens need 9-10 hours per night).
Seek professional help if nothing is helping and the symptoms are worsening.
Involve your child in treatment choices. Contact maybe three different counsellors to get a feel for different approaches and types of people. If your child doesn’t ‘connect’ with a therapist, for example, find another one.
Be open with younger sisters and brothers, who will know ‘something’ is wrong and also need your time and attention. Asking how they feel and listening to them too is very important.
Look after yourself. Find support for you, be honest about your own feelings. Don’t blame yourself.
And finally - Be hopeful.
Where can you find help?
Below are some of the various charities including us here at OhanaMind to help support you and your loved ones.
Support for Mental Health and Behaviour Intervention
HelpLine - 0333 577 9053
Contact - email@example.com
A membership platform that support families and communities providing resources and mental health content
Lists of local services for young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Offers information about advice and counselling services in the UK for young people aged 12-25 years.
Confidential advice and support for young people who feel suicidal.
HOPELineUK: 0800 068 41 41
Text: 07786 209 697
Offers support to young men in the UK who are down or in a crisis.
Helpline: 0800 58 58 58 (Daily 17:00 - 0:00)
Emotional support for anyone in distress
Freephone (UK and Republic of Ireland): 116 123 (24 hours)
We hope that you’ve found some comfort in this article,
Peace and Love to you all,