According to the Young Minds Matter study, mental health disorders such as depression are experienced by approximately one in seven or 560,000 young people in Australia with depression being the leading cause of mental health disability worldwide.
Some studies show that almost one in four young people will experience depression before they are 19 years old.
Depression can cause you to be tired all the time, feel sick, have headaches or muscle pains, frequent stomach upsets, sleep deprivation and changes to your appetite with significant weight loss or gain.
Two out of five young people with a major depressive disorder also experience a severe impact on their lives.
Dr Jessica Tearne, Clinical Psychologist and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Researcher at Telethon Kids states that, if your child is showing persistent changes in thinking, feelings and behaviour over two or more weeks your child may be depressed.
This might vary from child to child, but can manifest in things like:
- Feeling/looking sad, withdrawn, apathetic, or down.
- Irritability and temper tantrums.
- Saying negative things about themselves or the world.
- Feeling worried or frightened, including having nightmares.
- Lacking energy or losing interest in things they normally enjoy.
- Having trouble concentrating.
- Having trouble at school and/or with peers.
- Having physical symptoms like a sore head or tummy that don't appear to have a medical cause.
There are many reasons why your child may become depressed including family difficulties relating to finances or separation; bullying occurring at school or on-line through social media chat rooms or forums; physical, emotional or sexual abuse; the loss of a loved one especially if a child loses a parent.
As adults we have developed mechanisms to adapt or adjust to various setbacks or incidents, which allows us to rebound and move on with our lives albeit at times slowly.
However for children these things can be a major problem affecting their wellbeing but also their inherent ability to survive.
Therefore take your child seriously. Get them to talk to you and let them know that you are concerned about them and that you're there for them. If your child is reluctant to speak with you then find a trusted adult they may open up to such as another family member or someone at school.
You may want to talk to other people who know your child, including their friends’ parents or teachers at their school to see if they have any concerns.
Be persistent and continue to try and talk to your child to find out what’s bothering them. Remember to be understanding of what your child may be going through.
This may mean you may not fully agree or even comprehend where they’re coming from. Mainly you want to help your child feel validated and that there are solutions to their problems.
Unfortunately, depression in children creates a significant burden on individuals, families, and the communities they live in by increasing morbidity, mortality, and negatively affecting quality of life during times of significantly depressed moods of those individuals.
Fortunately, there are treatments available that can mitigate the suffering from clinical depression.
Treatment options may include alleviating any medical condition that causes or worsens depression.
For example, if your child has low levels of thyroid hormone, they might receive hormone replacement. Other treatments may include supportive therapy, like lifestyle and behavioural changes, psychotherapy (CBT, Interpersonal therapy) and possibly medication for moderate to severe depression.
If symptoms are severe enough that treatment with medication is appropriate, symptoms tend to improve faster and for a longer period when medication is combined with psychotherapy. About 60 per cent of children who take antidepressant medication improve with the effects of feeling better starting from one to six weeks.
Treatment for children with depression can have a significantly positive effect on the child's functioning with peers, family members and at school.
Without treatment, symptoms tend to last much longer, may not improve, or may worsen. With treatment, the chances of recovery are significantly improved.
If your child needs help with a mental health problem like depression you can visit your GP or contact any of the following services: Lifeline 13 11 14, Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800, beyondblue 1300 22 4636 or ReachOut.com