Children Are Not Immune to Depression
By Guest Author, Emylee Modestino
Most people consider depression as an adult disease, however, an overwhelming number of children and teenagers suffer as well. Yet unfortunately, most will go untreated because the adults in their lives simply do not recognize the symptoms as depression.
It’s vital for parents/guardians and teachers to know how to recognize when a child is not doing well and intervene before the symptoms can progress. Below are some key points that you should know.
Often, adults don’t consider how children may experience stress and sadly this stress can lead to depression. Per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that,
“As many as 2 to 3 % of children ages 6 to 12, and 6 to 8 percent of teens may have serious depression, and an estimated 2.8 million adolescents (ages 12 to 17) in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2014”
What’s more, even youngsters who may generally seem happy may be hiding how they are really feel in fear of disappointing their parents.
Recognize Childhood Depression
In general, children and teenagers suffering from depression may appear to become more easily irritated, and often over seemly minor things.
You may also see changes in their conduct in school such as rebellion, fighting, and/or a decrease in grades.
Others may withdraw and uncharacteristically preferring time by themselves. While some may complain of new health concerns such as stomach upset and headaches.
Though for some children this may be a passing issue that can resolve on its own, however, if this behavior continues for fourteen days or more certainly may indicate a more serious issue.
It’s important to know that in some cases when asked about the change in behavior, your child may insist that everything okay or deny that there are worrisome issues such as cyber/physical bullying.
Causes for Childhood Depression
Though there is no single cause for childhood depression, it is usually caused by a blend of the following:
In the must-read book, ‘Depression in Parents, Parenting, and Children: Opportunities to Improve Identification, Treatment, and Prevention‘ concluded that,
“Depression in parents is also associated with depression in their children as well as with problems in children’s daily functioning, physical health and well-being, some childhood chronic conditions, increased utilization of health care, increased likelihood of being abused or neglected, mismanagement of chronic health conditions, and poor school performance. A child with a depressed parent is more likely than other children to evidence other psychological impairment (e.g., temperament, attachment, affective functioning, cognitive/intellectual performance, cognitive vulnerabilities to depression), as well as increased rates of depression and other psychiatric disorders.”
- Environment (IE. home, school)
Issues such as violent and non-violence abuse at home and bullying in school rank high as a cause of childhood depression. In such situations, a child may often feel embarrassed and isolated. If either is suspected, contacting an experienced psychologist or therapist is highly encouraged.
- TV, Gaming and Social Media
Gaming has become very popular especially as technology has made the games more realistic, not to mention virtual reality. Though such games can be a good source of entertain, there appear to be serious hidden potential mental health concerns. In the New York Times article,’ Video Games and the Depressed Teenager‘ wrote,
“Two years later, these heavy gamers, who played an average of 31 hours a week, compared with 19 hours a week for other students, were more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and social phobias”
Though excessive TV watching has long been associated with the potential of depression, a new “kid on the block” is far surpassing the depression risk – Social Media.
“Some experts see the rise in depression as evidence that the connections social media users form electronically are less emotionally satisfying, leaving them feeling socially isolated” Child Mind Institute
- Inability to cope with hormonal changes
Puberty can indeed be a challenging time for most children. Not only are they changing physically but also how they interact socially, so it isn’t surprising that children may struggle during this time.
“It is estimated that 2% of children under age 10 experience depression, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, between the ages of 10 and 14, the average age range of puberty onset, depression rates increase from 5% to 8% for children overall.
Though rates of depression are higher for boys than girls before puberty, the rate for girls becomes double that of boys during puberty” Depression During Puberty
- Learning disability (dyslexia, hyperactivity)
Undiagnosed learning disabilities such as dyslexia can often leave your child feeling discouraged. Luckily there are excellent online tests that your child could take to help determine if there is an issue.
You Can Be Proactive About Your Child’s Mental Health
The following can help you proactively improve your child’s psychological wellness:
- Guide them to eat more nutritious foods and herbs
- Encourage them to become more physically active and to get plenty of rest.
- Get involved with your child by being more curious about TV/Gaming habits, and how long they are on social media.
- Dole out obligations and reward them for being mindful.
And most importantly, talk to them! By letting them know that you are there for them, in and of itself, can work wonders on their physiological wellness.