Depression in childhood is an important mental health condition. It is not just when a child is sad or having a low mood. Instead, depression is when they are sad, withdrawn, or struggle to find pleasure in their usual interests affecting their daily activities or schoolwork.
It is easy to overlook depression as part of growth or mood swings, especially among adolescents. As a result, many children with depression hide their condition or end up with a late diagnosis.
This condition affects children in unique ways and to different degrees. This means that your child may have some of the signs but not all. The following are things you may notice:
- Persistent sadness or low mood: this mood usually lasts at least two weeks, and all attempts at cheering them up may fail. You may also find that they cry a lot and are very irritable.
- Hopelessness and lack of motivation: they do not look forward to things and have a negative attitude towards trying for fear of rejection or disappointment.
- Lack of interest in hobbies or their favourite activities: they suddenly do not care about their favourite toys, games or do not want to hang out with friends.
- Limit interactions with other people: these children tend to stay in the background at social events like family gatherings, class events or extracurriculars.
- Difficulty concentrating in school: their grades may fall, or teachers may start to notice that they are distant during classes.
- Increase or reduction in their appetite: the child may start to binge on food or lose interest in food.
- Abnormal sleep pattern: difficulty sleeping, waking up late at night or early in the morning.
- Complaints of tiredness and lack of energy: they may also have stomach pains or headaches that refuse to go away.
As a parent or guardian, the following are ways to help your child get through depression:
- Recognize that depression is a medical condition, and it requires healthcare like other illnesses to get better.
- See a child psychiatrist or psychologist to discuss your child’s health and get a diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Ensure that your child is getting his treatment as recommended. You may need to give them drugs directly, even for older children and take them to their therapy sessions.
- Talk to your child. Discuss their condition, life in school, stressors, bullies or anything that may be bothering them. Create open communication so they feel they can trust you and come back to speak to you about anything.
- Keep sharp objects, drugs and alcohol away. This will reduce their chances of harming themselves. Adolescents with depression may also be at a high risk of abusing alcohol and other substances.
- Watch out for suicide attempt signs like talking about killing themselves, giving away prized possessions, and discussing how freeing death will be.
- In all this, do not forget to take care of yourself. It is exhausting, and you should accept all the help you can get from family members, support groups and even therapy.
Recognizing depression is very important but is often not easy, especially in children. Depression is a long-term illness, but the symptoms usually occur in episodes. Any child who has had one attack is likely to have another one. Although it is possible to get better without treatment, treatment is vital to prevent the ugly effects in many people. Even after your child seems better, you should make sure you follow your healthcare provider’s advice about treatments.