Recognizing Childhood Depression

Childhood depression is a serious illness with serious consequences.  Left untreated, depression can lead to school failure, substance abuse and even suicide.  Are you aware of the warning signs of child or teen depression?

Each day, at least one child in every elementary classroom across America may suffer from depression.  And several teenagers sitting in every junior high and high school classroom may also have depression.  Yet most parents and teachers never realize these children are silently suffering.

Warning signs for depression in children and teens

Because the child may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that troublesome behavior is a sign of depression.  Child psychiatrists advise parents to be aware of the signs of depression in children and teens.  If one or more of the warning signs below persists for more than two weeks, parents should seek professional help:

  • Persistent sadness and hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities once enjoyed
  • Increased irritability or agitation
  • Missed school or declining school performance
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
  • Poor self-esteem or guilt
  • Frequent physical complaints such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Lack of enthusiasm or motivation or low energy
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse– Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

* Source: National Mental Health Association

Additionally, teens may experiment with drugs or alcohol or become sexually promiscuous to avoid feelings of depression.  Teens also may express their depression through hostile, aggressive, or risk-taking behavior.

Getting help

If you suspect that your child or teen may need help for depression, it is extremely important that your child receives prompt, professional treatment.  Depression is not simply a passing blue mood.  Your child cannot simply get better by being “more positive.”  Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.  If you need help, contacting your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for professional assistance is a great place to start.  Your EAP can provide you and your dependents with CONFIDENTIAL counseling, referrals and information and EAP counselors are specially trained to help people get the right help for depression.