How Can I Tell If My Child Is Depressed And Seeking Help?

Question: How can I tell if my child is depressed and seeking help?

Answer: Well parents will notice, in a child who suffering from a depression, a change. This change is usually a change in their mood and it may either be towards feelings of sadness or feelings of irritability, but it represents a change in the usual functioning in this child.

This change goes on for a while, at least for two weeks, and it's associated with a variety of other symptoms including change in sleep -- either sleeping too little or too much -- loss of interest in activities that they usually enjoyed, feelings of the guilt -- and this may either take the form in adults that they feel badly about themselves, but in children it's often that they feel badly about the way they're being treated.

They also notice a change in energy -- they usually fatigue easily. They often have trouble with concentration or memory or completing assignments. They also may see a change in appetite -- either overeating or undereating. There's often, maybe feelings of helplessness and hopelessness in the child and these in their worst form take the form of patients feeling they should have never been born, or that people would be better off if they weren't around -- meaning that they feel suicidal or in some instances feel that they want to hurt themselves or to kill themselves.

If these symptoms are all present together or in some form and they represent a change, then parents need to look into this. It's important for parents really to realize that their child may not come to them and say, oh I'm depressed -- that the experience of a child who's depressed is not often that they're depressed, they often feel irritable, angry, have mood swings, overreact to more negative stressors. So it's really the job of the parents to try to put this puzzle together rather than waiting for the child to come and tell them about it.

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