I’m worried that my 10-year-old child is depressed. He doesn’t seem like himself lately. He’s moody, doesn’t want to go to karate and hardly gets excited anymore. His teacher tells me he’s more withdrawn in class. What should I do?
A: As a clinician, I am asked this question often by worried parents who notice changes in their child’s behaviors and moods. What’s normal and what’s not? What should be treated by a professional and what should be considered a “phase”? Where does a parent start in finding the right help for their child?
Astoundingly, one in 33 children and adolescents struggle with clinical depression at some point in time. Depression is a mental illness that affects the way children think, act and behave. It is more than having a bad day or a bad mood. Signs of depression in children include:
• thoughts about death or suicide
• persistent sadness and hopelessness
• lack of enthusiasm and low energy
• poor school performance
• changes in sleeping and eating
• loss of interest in spending time with friends and doing activities
• irritability and agitation
A child with depression feels or exhibits these symptoms nearly every day. The symptoms linger for days, weeks and even months. As parents we need to tune into whether the mood has passed or lessens with time or if the child’s functioning is becoming impaired. Depression can be caused by a number of factors including chemical imbalances, significant life events, chronic illness and stress. Be aware of the experiences that your child is having at home and school and how he/she is handling the ups and downs of their development. Keep the lines of communication open and do not be afraid to talk about depression. It’s not something that can be ignored.
Getting help: Don’t be afraid, professional help is necessary and available. Don’t ignore the signs, dismiss your son’s concerns or believe that it will go away. Depression will not go away without the right help. Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide.
Talk with your son’s pediatrician and be sure that your worries are heard. Ask for a referral to a specialist who diagnoses and treats childhood depression. Talk with the school more about the concerns that you have about your son. They may be able to offer support and guidance to your child during the school day. Remember, with the right help and treatment depression can be treated and you and your son will be able to find more happiness.
source www.galtime.com By Sally Souliere MSW, LICSE, Family Therapist