Depression in Children

Although we can all feel sad, down, or be in a bad mood from time to time, whether things don’t go as expected or someone hurts us, or we lose a loved one - depression is not just that. People who experience depression may experience these feelings intensely, for long periods of time, and at times for no apparent reason. It affects a person’s physical and mental health. It impacts on how a person thinks about the world and themselves. Similarly, children can experience depression. Depression can look the same in children, and they can stop enjoying the things they use to enjoy doing due to these intense feelings.

What are the signs of depression in a child

Children usually find it difficult to describe how they’re feeling and what these feelings are. Sometimes the negative behaviour that comes with depression for the child can be misunderstood as being whiny or irritable and can often not only go unnoticed as depression, but can cause their parents, teachers or siblings to tell them off for it. This is why it’s important to understand and recognise the warning signs of a depressed child. Some of the signs and symptoms to look out for, especially if they occur over several weeks and are out of character for the child, include:

  • Low energy and low motivation

  • Loss of interest in activities they enjoyed

  • Difficulty listening and concentrating on tasks

  • Say negative comments about themselves

  • Social withdrawal from friends and family

  •  Looks at the negative of situations and finds it difficult to see positive

  • Irritability, agitation, easily frustrated and upset

  • Difficulty pleasing them

  • Sadness that’s noticeable and cry easily with difficulty calming down

  • Loss of appetite or overeating 

  • Problems with falling asleep, staying asleep, or oversleeping

Four things to do to support your child:

  1. Provide them with emotional support: Spend quality time with your child. Try understand what’s going on for them and provide an open and safe place to come and discuss things

  2. Avoid social isolation: Encourage your child to go play with friends, go to the park with them, watch their favourite movie or read their favourite book. Isolation increases depressive symptoms

  3. Introduce a health lifestyle: As physical and mental health are closely related, it’s important to keep them physically healthy to promote their mental wellbeing. Eat healthy meals, regular sleep patterns, and exercise.

  4. Seek help: Sometimes a child may not want to speak with their parents about difficult things, sometimes they can’t make sense of it themselves which can be even more frustrating for everyone involved. Seeking help from a professional can help your child have a safe place to talk and open up, as well as learn techniques to support them

If you believe your child may be suffering from depression, and would like some support then give us a call to make an appointment with one of our team of Psychologists.