Let’s first address the myth that children cannot become depressed. They can and sadly, it’s becoming a bigger issue for many kids. Depression is more than sadness. It’s ongoing sadness accompanied by a variety of other signs– irritability, anger control difficulties, isolation, feelings of guilt, school refusal, poor performance in school, crying spells, changes in sleep patterns, appetite changes, problems paying attention, and sometimes self-harming behavior. Having one of these signs do not necessarily indicate depression but if there are several and they last longer than a few weeks, depression could be something to consider.
Why do kids get depressed?
It’s complicated because children don’t have the same worries that adults do, but they’re not immune to becoming depressed. If a child has experienced a lot of trauma and stress in their life, it can bring on signs of depression. Being abused, neglected, instability in the home, family problems, domestic violence are risk factors for depression. Genetics and heredity play a role, too. That means if a family member suffers from depression, it can increase a child’s chance of being depressed.
Why is it important to get counseling for depression?
Because it doesn’t go away on its own; untreated childhood depression leads to adult depression, and by then, it gets worse. Depression is a painful experience and can cause self-destructive thoughts and behavior. Many children we see as adolescents, who are acting out, have undiagnosed depression. By the time they become teens, often they’re engaging in risky behavior as a way to feel better. Untreated depression can lead to alcohol and other substance abuse because many times a sufferer is looking to self-medicate.
What can parents do?
Do go into denial. If you notice any changes or signs listed above, consider that depression could be an issue. Be compassionate. Again, depression is challenging to adults. Imagine what it’s like to be a child who is suffering. Call us if you have any concerns about your child’s emotional well-being. We will help sort it through.
Here’s a test that you can give your child at home. It will help to determine if your child needs further assessment.
Please note, this is for educational purposes only. Only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose your child. If you have immediate concerns, please call 911 or your local crisis hotline. Pediatricians can also be great resources.