Depression is very common and is present with a variety of symptoms. It can change an individual’s thinking/feelings and also affects his/her social behaviour and sense of physical well-being. It can affect people of any age group, including young children and teens. Depression among children and adolescents is quite a crisis for the kids and their families, for schools, and for society as a whole. By the time they turn 18 years, approximately 11% of children and adolescents will have experienced some form of diagnosable depressive disorder. Children with depression frequently exhibit difficulties in academic performance and social interactions. Their motivation, initiative, persistence can suffer, and parents and teachers sometimes misperceive them as lazy or not caring about their work.
Depression that is left untreated in childhood and adolescence results in significant suffering to them as adults.
You as parents can identify it when it is a problem when your kid has:
- A changed mood for most of the day. The kid may feel sad or angry or look more cranky.
- A change in weight or eating, either less or more.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- A lack of energy.
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
- Trouble in focusing.
- psychomotor agitation, for example, restlessness.
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
Any of these signs can occur in children who are not depressed, but when seen together, nearly every day, they are red flags for depression. Some people experience a few symptoms, some many. Severity of symptoms varies with individuals and also varies over time.
What can you do?
- Talk to your children about his/her feelings and what is happening at home and at school that might be bothering him/her.
- Tell your child’s doctor as some medical problems can cause depression. The doctor may recommend counselling to help with emotions and behaviour or medicine for depression.
- the basics for good mental health include a healthy diet, enough sleep, exercise, and positive connections with other people at home and at school.
- Limit screen time and encourage physical activity and fun activities with friends or family to help develop positive connections with others.
- Use kind words, praise for good behaviour, encouragement for seeking care and pointing out strengths build the parent-child bond.
- Reduce stress as most teens have low stress tolerance.
- Understand that what looks like laziness or crankiness can be symptoms of depression.
Help your child to learn Thinking and Coping Skills
- Help him/her to relax with physical and creative activities. Focus on the his/her strengths.
- Talk to and listen to your child with love and support. Encourage them to share their feelings including thoughts of death or suicide. Reassure them that this is very common with depression.
- Help them look at problems in a different more positive way.
- Formal psychological interventions and referral
It is important to keep in mind that children are often not so vocal about their feelings, so as parents you should pay close attention to his/her behaviour and notice if there any changes. Recognising and diagnosing depression in your child can be a challenge but is necessary to give him/her a good, healthy life.