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Depression among children
May 2, 2017, 5:42 pm

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting over 300 million people. To draw awareness of this fact and raise support for this debilitating issue, the theme for this year’s World Health Day on 7 April was ‘Depression: Let’s talk.’ Doctors are urging parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression and other common mental health difficulties in children.

While depression is rarer in younger-children (~4%), it generally tends to become more apparent as children move towards adolescence (10-20%). Depression negatively affects how children feel, think and act and sometimes involves the child becoming more irritable and less involved in group activities. It may include negative thoughts, such as ‘I’m not good enough,’ ‘nobody likes me’ or ‘I’m terrible at this.’

Depression can also include physical symptoms, such as fatigue, weight loss or gain, sleeping difficulties and finding it difficult to concentrate. Children with depression may wish to withdraw from day-to-day activities that they previously enjoyed. Some older children with depression may also experience thoughts of life not being worth living or thoughts of harming themselves.

Transitions or changes in a child’s life may trigger the onset of a mental health difficulty, such as depression or anxiety. Parents may see these challenges arise following times of change, such as moving school or moving home, or moving to a new country.

Depression may also be linked to some other underlying mental health condition. For example, if your child has become very worried about speaking in public, asking and answering questions in school, and wants to avoid social gatherings at home, then they may be experiencing social anxiety. This shyness, can then lead to depression if it leads to your child becoming isolated from peers.

Depression is also very common in young people who already have physical health conditions. In addition, it is often their mental-health rather than their physical health difficulties that has the biggest impact on quality of life.

Depression should not be a stigmatizing condition. It is a common difficulty and the good news is that it is very treatable condition that can lead to big improvements in children’s functioning and wellbeing at home and at school.

Parents should talk to their child’s pediatrician to identify a qualified mental healthcare professional (e.g. Clinical Psychologist or Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist) who can offer treatments that are evidence-based. 

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