The changing lifestyle, nuclear families, divorces, peer pressure, and other curses of modern living are taking a toll on youngsters’ mental health. Now more and more children are showing signs of depression. Depression can create havoc with a child’s grade, physical and mental health, social growth, and can also push him to the mouth of death. Depressed girls are more likely to attempt suicide, while depressed boys are more likely to successfully take their own lives. The good news is that there is a general awareness amongst parents in urban cities who can track down depression in kids and give timely help to their young ones.
Mental health is as important as physical health. However, parents usually focus on just the physical aspects of their children’s growth. Usually the well-meaning grownups believe that children do not feel depressed. In most cases they are right. A sad child would normally bounce back to happiness with little effort. However, if this sadness is prolonged, then parents need to be worried and check for depression in kids.
Some general signs of child depression are
- Anger or irritability
- Change in food habits- the child either starts eating less or more
- Change in sleep patterns- the child starts oversleeping or becomes a victim of insomnia
- Constant feeling of hopelessness and sadness
- Constant feeling of tiredness
- Difficulty in concentration
- Impaired thinking
- Lack of enthusiasm for fun things in life
- Mood swings- the child is sometimes happy, sometimes sad
- Regular crying or outbursts
- Regular medical issues like stomach pain or headache
- Running away from home
- Suicidal thinking
- Withdrawal from peers- starts avoiding friends and declines to go out at social functions or general outings
- Writing goodbye letters and talking of giving away favored belongings
A child will be diagnosed with depression if he suffers from few of these symptoms for at least a fifteen day period. However, there are several medical conditions like anemia that show many of the signs of depression (like fatigue, irritability, change in food and sleep patterns, etc.). Hence, the child must be thoroughly evaluated for an underlying physical condition before diagnosing the mental issue(s).
Depression in kids is more common in certain situation, and so the kids in these situations must be given particular attention to provide a timely help.
The children who are at higher risk of depression are as follows:
- Genetic Predisposition: A child with immediate family member having a history of depression is more likely to be depressed than other kids.
- Chronic Medical Conditions: Children who suffer from chronic medical conditions are higher at risk of getting childhood depression.
- Family History of Violence: Kids who have a family history of violence are very much likely to go into depression at a young age.
- Childhood Abuse: Kids who are exposed to childhood abuse in the form of physical or sexual abuse are highly likely to go into depression.
- Parent Divorce: Usually children tend to get into depression when their parents separate or undergo a divorce.
- Death of a Close Relative: Children who lose a close relative such as a parent or sibling tend to go into depression.
The Parental Help for Depressed Child
If you think that your child is depressed then here are some things which you can do to make him feel better.
- Talk: Talking is the best way to know about your child’s heart. If you think that your child is showing signs of depression, then talk sensitively with him and try to reach at the cause of depression. Encourage your child to speak with you on all topics including suicide and help him to look at the problem(s) in a positive manner.
- Increase Your Attention to the Child Wellbeing: A healthy body would be the host to a healthy mind. So, increase your attention to the child wellbeing by including healthy diet, exercise, and the right amount of sleep in the daily regime.
- Make Your Child Feel Safe and Secure: Your child could be depressed because he might be a victim of bullying or any other abuse. So, have a conversation with your youngster on the topic of bullying and find out if he is suffering from any kind of abuse.
- Lock Away Alcohol and Harmful Articles: A depressed child might think of indulging in self-harm. So, lock away medicines, ropes, knives, and alcohol to keep your child safe.
- Teach Coping Techniques: Focus on your child’s strengths and help him to relax with creative activities and deep breathing. Assist your child to break-up the problem in small parts and tackle each part individually to succeed in getting rid of the whole.
- Make a Network of Sensitive Individuals: To help treat your depressed kid, make a network of sensitive individuals and ask them to look-up and speak with your child on a regular basis. These individuals could be grandparents, uncles and aunts, and favorite teacher at school. The child must also be encouraged to reach out to these individuals when he feels depressed.
- Get Medical Help: Medical help is an essential tool to help depression in kids. In most cases depressed children are treated with counseling and without any need for medication. A timely medical assistance would help your child lead a bright future. So, don’t shy away from this important step and get medical help if you feel that your efforts are not producing the desired result in your child. Remember that even a medical help will take some time to get your child out of depression. So, maintain patience and your child would soon be the old- chirpy self.