Being sad, feeling and expressing a wide range of emotions are part of life. Sometimes, these feelings may continue to depression. Most of the parents I work with have a gut instinct when it comes to their child’s mood. They often know something is not right, but simply are not sure what to do and it can make parents feel as hopeless as their child.
Your child may not tell you that they are depressed or low in mood but you may notice these symptoms, remember to be age appropriate, a young child will not say that they feel low :
Symptoms of Depression and Low Mood
- Regressing in behaviour, behaving like a younger child
- Have disturbed sleep
- Tummy aches and physical symptoms
- Losing Interest in activities
- Losing interest in eating and drinking
- Withdrawing from their friends
- They may be suicidal
- Struggling to learn, finding it hard to concentrate
How common is it?
The Royal College of Psychiatry note, Depression is thought to occur in around 1-3 % of children and young people. Anybody can suffer from depression and it happens in people of all ages, races, income levels and educational levels. Teenage girls are twice as likely as teenage boys to be depressed.
What causes it?
There is no specific cause for depression. It can be caused by a mixture of things, rather than any one thing alone. Depression may be triggered by stressful life events like bullying at school, parental separation or divorce, bereavement or conflicts with family members or friends. Having family members with depression or bipolar disorder can increase the risk.
What can you do?
Try and remain calm and really understand what may be going on with them. It is very common to become annoyed and grumpy too but it’s better to remain calm if you can.
Spend time with them in their room, even if you are not saying much.
Help them to get out of their room by ensuring that they at the very least have meals with you.
Keep a structure as much as you can.
Talk to their school to see how they are there, don’t be frightened of them getting annoyed with you. Tell them you are trying to help.
What treatments help?
Talking therapies such as CBT are found to help, remember your child needs to have a cognitive understanding to access the benefits of CBT, it is therefore not as effective in younger children where parent, family or creative therapies may help.
Medication is sometimes useful depending on the severity of your child symptoms, this needs to be prescribed by a Psychiatrist.
Seek help if you feel something is not right. Take your child to your GP and they may refer you to CAMHS or talk to your school nurse. Some children may not want to talk to you, especially if they are being bullied, but you can ask your GP or school if they can help. Most schools have school counsellors now. I do not work with teenagers. OTR has free therapy for young people in Bristol but please do contact me for under 12’s
MindED great resource for parents and teachers