Many people dismiss the concept of depression in children as ridiculous, and they have trouble figuring out what a child could possibly be depressed about.
Clinical depression is actually a widespread problem among children, but the symptoms are often disguised, and parents may find it difficult to identify it.
Signs of depression in children include:
- Unexplained anger and irritability. Parents may turn to psychiatrists as a result of their children's behavioral problems, such as a teacher's complaint or a child's inability to deal with other children. Complaints such as: "My child has a rebellious nature, he cries for no good reason, he becomes violent with his siblings or his friends at school, he is out of control, he has been dismissed from school" are very common factors that lead parents to consult a psychiatrist.
- Lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy. They exhibit signs of growing indifference towards activities they previously enjoyed, such as their favorite cartoons. They complain of boredom and don't appear to enjoy anything.
- A pessimistic outlook. If their team loses a game, for example, they blame themselves for the loss. This is usually combined with a lack of self-confidence and empathy, as well as a sense of failure. If you ask a depressed child what sets them apart from their peers, they would find it difficult to name anything.
- Growing violence and unrest at home and at school. The child may show hyperactivity, or, on the contrary, signs of fatigue.
- Signs of introversion and inability to interact socially. Their teachers may complain that they always spend time alone and make no friends. (This phenomenon may be one of the causes of depression, as well as a sign of it.)
- Frequent physical problems, most commonly, abdominal pain or headaches. This occurs when children lack the ability to express their problems, so they manifest in the form of physical pains.
- Eating disorders. These can appear either as binge-eating and a rapid increase in weight or a total loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Sleep disorders. The depressed child can sleep most of the day or, on the contrary, stay awake all night.
The causes of child depression vary, and can be traced back to genetic factors or environmental factors. More often than not, it's a mix of both. For example, a child whose mother suffers from depression may inherit a genetic predisposition to depression, which may be exacerbated by environmental factors; namely, living with a mother dealing with depression.
Improving the child's environment would be the only way to save a child from falling into a deep well of depression.
Parents should learn effective psychoeducation so that they may protect their children from mental illnesses, including depression. Timely and appropriate treatment would prevent depression from developing into chronic mental illness.
What can we do to help children who may be dealing with depression?
- A specialist must diagnose the child as being depressed.
- Immediate treatment leads to effective and promising results. Parents should consult a psychiatrist so that their children don't fall into the clutches of an incurable mental illness.
- Learning effective psychoeducation is the best way to save children, especially those who have a genetic predisposition to mental illness.
Young Minds Matter is a new series meant to lead the conversation with children about mental and emotional health, so youngsters feel loved, valued and understood. Launched with Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, as guest editor, we will discuss problems, causes and most importantly solutions to the stigma surrounding the UK's mental health crisis among children. To blog on the site as part of Young Minds Matter email firstname.lastname@example.org
This post first appeared on HuffPost Arabi. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.