There are ups and downs in everyone’s life. We all become unhappy when we experience problems and set-backs. These unhappy feelings are usually temporary. For some people, though, sad feelings last a long time and are quite severe. “Depression” is a clinical term used by psychiatrists to describe a long period when a person feels very sad to the point of feeling worthless, hopeless and helpless.
Signs of Depression in Children and Teens
If your child becomes depressed, he/she is unlikely to talk about it. Your first warning signs will probably be changes in behaviour that may suggest a troubled and unhappy state of mind. A child who used to be active and involved may suddenly become quiet and withdrawn. A good student might start getting poor grades.
Changes in Feelings
Your child may show signs of being unhappy, worried, guilty, angry, fearful, helpless, hopeless, lonely or rejected.
Your child may start to complain of headaches, or general aches and pains. He/she may have a lack of energy, sleeping or eating problems, or feel tired all the time.
Changes in Thinking
Your child may say things that indicate low self-esteem, self-dislike or self-blame. He/she may have difficulty concentrating or frequently experience negative thoughts. He/she might even think about suicide.
Changes in Behaviour
Your child might withdraw from others, cry easily or show less interest in sports, games or other fun activities that he/she normally likes. He/she might over-react and have sudden outbursts of anger or tears over fairly small incidents.
How to Help a Child who may be Depressed
Talk to your child. If you have noticed any of the signs discussed here, do your best to encourage your child to talk to you about how he/she is feeling and what is bothering him/her. Depression is very treatable. Start by checking with your family doctor to find out if there could be a physical cause for your child’s feelings of fatigue, aches and pains, and low moods. Many school boards have professional counsellors on staff. The school counsellor or your family doctor may refer you to a children’s mental health clinic. If there isn’t a clinic nearby, there may be a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in working with children.
This article provides general information only. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice. If you feel that you may need advice, please consult a qualified health care professional. For further information please visit our web site at: www.cmha-east.on.ca or call 1-800-493-8271.