Recognizing and Treating Depression in School Aged Kids

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May is Mental Health Awareness month, and as a health and wellness website, our resources extend beyond physical health, they include mental and emotional health as well. About 5 percent of children suffer from depression. Children who are under stress, experience trouble paying attention and learning, or have an existing anxiety disorder, are at greater risk.

It’s important to know how to recognize depression in children, as symptoms appear differently than they do in adults. Look out for frequent sadness, decreased interest in activities, social isolation, low self-esteem, increased irritability, difficulty with relationships, frequent physical ailments like headaches or stomach aches, poor concentration, poor academic performance, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, and of course, expressions of suicide of self harming behaviors.

While you may not be able to prevent or treat depression on your own, you can open up a conversation with your child and ask them how they are feeling. Having a safe space for communication can be a simple first step to helping your child feel more comfortable about honestly expressing their feelings. It’s also important to know that depression can, and should, be treated with the help of a professional . As a parent, it’s easy to feel like your child’s health and happiness is riding on your shoulders. But the truth is, a mental illness needs to be treated like any other physical illness. If your child had a broken leg, you would take them to a doctor;it’s important to do the same when recognizing signs of depression.

After you’ve had a conversation with your child, make an appointment with your physician and ask for a referral for a mental health professional who can diagnose and treat depression. It’s important to recognize and treat depression early on, as this is not something that children are likely to grow out of. Children with depression are, in fact more likely to experience depression or other mental health issues when they’re an adult, and are at a higher risk for suicidal behaviors. Fortunately, early intervention is effective in giving children lifelong tools they need to manage their mental health.

Lastly, it’s important to recognize these behaviors in all children, not just your own. Less than half of children with mental health issues actually end up receiving professional health or treatment. Notify a parent, caregiver, or teacher if you recognize these signs in another child in your community.

We’d like to hear from you! What can you do to make sure you recognize signs and symptoms of depression in your house or community? Let us know in the comments below.