Are you worried that your child may be depressed? Most kids have days when they feel sad, lonely, or depressed. But, if your child seems persistently sad or feels hopeless and it is affecting relationships, he or she may suffer from childhood depression, a serious mental health condition that needs medical assessment and treatment.
The symptoms of depression in children vary. It is often undiagnosed and untreated because they are passed off as normal emotional and psychological changes that occur during growth.
Signs and symptoms of depression in children include:
1. Irritability or anger
2. Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness
3. Social withdrawal
4. Increased sensitivity to rejection
5. Changes in appetite - either increased or decreased
6. Changes in sleep - sleeplessness or excessive sleep
7. Vocal outbursts or crying
8. Difficulty concentrating
9. Fatigue and low energy
10. Physical complaints (such as stomach aches, headaches) that don't respond to treatment
11. Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests
12. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
13. Impaired thinking or concentration
14. Thoughts of death or suicide
What can I do to help?
1. The basics for good mental health include a healthy diet, enough sleep, exercise, and positive connections with other people at home and at school.
2. Limit screen time and encourage physical activity to help develop positive connections with others.
3. One-on-one time with parents, praise for good behaviour, and pointing out strengths build the parent-child bond.
4. Talk with your child about bullying. Being the victim of bullying is a major cause of mental health problems in children.
5. Look for grief or loss issues. Seek help if problems with grief do not get better. If you as a parent are grieving a loss, get help and find additional support for your child.
6. Reduce stress. Short-term changes in the amount of schoolwork, chores, or activities, may be needed.
7. Weapons, medicines (including those you buy without a prescription), and alcohol should be locked up.
8. Help your child relax with physical and creative activities. Focus on the child's strengths.
9. Talk to and listen to your child with love and support. Help your child learn to describe their feelings.
10. Help your child look at problems in a different and more positive way.
11. Break down problems or tasks into smaller steps so your child can be successful.
12. Follow your child's treatment plan. Make sure your child attends therapy and takes any medicine as directed.
13. Treatment works, but it may take a few weeks. The depressed child may not recognise changes in mood right away.
14. Develop a list of people to call when feelings get worse.
15. Watch for risk factors for suicide. These include talking about suicide in person or on the internet, giving away belongings, increased thoughts about death, and substance abuse.