The causes of depression in children are numerous. Depression is a complex disease that can occur as a result of a variety of childhood situations. For some, depression occurs due to a loss of a loved one, a change or move, or after being placed in a situation that causes severe fear or abuse. Like adults, depression can occur in children due to family history.
Common factors involved in causing depression in children may include:
Personal and ongoing disputes within a family
Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
Major events that occur in everyone's lives, such as moving, starting school, divorce parents, death of a pet, not being accepted
Serious illness- depressed feelings are a common reaction to many medical illnesses
Grief from the death or loss of a loved one
Other personal problems: These may come in the forms of social isolation due to other mental illnesses, or feeling accepted by family, relatives or friends.
Common Symptoms of Childhood Depression
Persistent or ongoing sadness
Isolation or desire to be alone
Acting-out behavior, anger, aggression
Change in social behavior
Change in habits or unusual daily functions that includes eating, sleeping and desire to be or not be with others.
Feeling of worthlessness
Not all children have all of these symptoms. Most will display different symptoms at different times and in different settings. Although some children may continue to function reasonably well in structured environments, some children with significant depression will suffer a noticeable change in social activities, loss of interest in school and poor academic performance, or a change in appearance. Children may also begin using drugs or alcohol, especially if they are over the age of 12.
Suicide attempts in depressed children under the age of 12 are a rare occurrence. Girls are more likely to attempt suicide, but boys are more likely succeed in committing this action. Children with a family history of violence, alcohol abuse, or physical or sexual abuse are at greater risk for suicide, as are those with depressive symptoms.
What Parents Can Do?
If the symptoms of depression continue to last for at least two weeks, you should schedule an appointment with a medical doctor. A medical diagnosis is important to ensure there are no physical reasons for the symptoms. If a positive medical diagnosis is made it’s important for the parent and child to continue to meet with a trained medical doctor and other personnel to discuss an appropriate treatment plan. A mental health evaluation often includes interviews with the parent and child. It may also include psychological testing.
As a parent, it’s important to remember that depression is a treatable illness. Just like it’s important to meet with an eye specialist if your child is having vision problems, it’s important to meet with a medical doctor if your child has symptoms of depression.
Scott Wardell has a Masters Degree in School Counseling and a Specialist Degree in School Administration. He has twenty-eight years of counseling and educational experience. Scott is a Past President of the Minnesota Association of Middle Level Educators. He has presented at numerous parenting workshops, educational in-services and has been a keynote speaker on topics involving Child Development, School Bullies and Parenting. Scott Wardell is the creator, author and editor of ScottCounseling.com; a Website devoted to assisting parents with informational articles and online counseling services.
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