Far too often depression is overlooked or ignored. Depressive behavior that parents/caregivers, teachers and family observe is thought to be normal—having temper tantrums, egoistic frustrations, sudden mood changes. This has given rise to the myth that children do not experience depression. Therefore, concern is not justified.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) report children actually go through depressed or depression-like phases. The key is if the behavior or behaviors persists for weeks to months at a time, then it may be necessary to consult professional help for an evaluation. These are the following behaviors caregivers should seek and evaluation:
- Persistent sadness
- Thoughts of death, dying, suicide
- No appetite—loss of weight
- Overeating (weight gain) (a focus on eating)
- Complains of headaches
- Complaints of stomachaches
- Low energy
- Withdrawal from family and friends (staying on the computer by her/him-self)
- Feeling of helplessness
- Feeling of hopelessness
- A “don’t care” attitude about formally important activities to her/him
- Constant concern about their body image
- Excessive feelings of guilt
- Difficulty remembering formally known information
- Drug/substance abuse
- Feelings of worthlessness
NOTE: It is important to note that most of the above behaviors is not an immediate sign of
depression. Displays of several behaviors over weeks or months at a time is a signal
for professional help.
Children who displayed depressed behavior in a multiplicity of ways. Some isolate themselves, or get themselves in school, shoplift, skip school, steal from their siblings, parents/caregivers or friends. Others become bullies, run away from home, become sexually promiscuous though not an adolescent.
If a parent/caregiver believe their child is depressed, there are a number steps might you wish to take. The first step is to assess the situation asking a series of questions:
- Has the child’s adverse behavior or behaviors persisted for some time (several weeks or several months)?
- Does the child’s behavior or behaviors concern you, other family members, or friends?
- Does the child’s condition seems to be getting worse?
- Does the child’s behavior or behaviors pose a threat to the child or others?
Second, it is important that the parent(s)/caregiver(s), even at a very young age, not be
judgmental. Third, be supportive letting the child know you love her/him unconditionally and that what is bothering her/him is not their fault. Four, if the child is able and they want to talk about it, let her/him do so.
Winning their confidence and showing her/him that you as a parent/caregiver is more valuable than you can imagine. If everything you have attempted to do has not seemed to help or is making the situation worse, it is important to help or is making the situation worse, it is important to seek professional help. It is recommended a parent/caregiver begin with the child’s physician, school psychologist, or mental health professional. It is also recommend you talk with the child so that he/she will not feel abandoned or frightened by seeing a professional