Childhood Depression can be a very serious issue. Like adults, children can suffer from depressive episodes. Children who suffer from depression may not be able to put into words how they are feeling. Childhood depression is quite similar to a clinical depression and is not just “feeling down” or having a “low mood” that is temporary.
Childhood depression is not resulting from the child being sad that they have been told they cannot have or do something, it is biologically driven. It can become life threatening if the child’s mood is so low that they begin to consider ways to harm themselves.
We often consider children to be in a care-free stage of life. Demands of school and family expectations, problems with peer acceptance, and any trauma history of abuse or neglect can contribute to childhood depression. These factors can trigger a downward spiral that may need professional help.
Causes of Depression in Children
1. A family history of mental illness or suicide.
2. Physical, Sexual or Emotional Abuse (current or historical) or Chronic Neglect.
3. Chronic illnesses.
4. Loss of a parent/primary caretaker at an early age to death, divorce, abandonment, or out of home placement.
5. Improper diet and lack of sufficient exercise.
6. Excessive exposure to negative factors (domestic abuse, arguing, gang exposure, etc).
7. Insufficient parental attention.
Symptoms of Childhood Depression:
1. No longer interested in hobbies or activities.
2. Remarkable change in appetite, abrupt gain or loss of weight.
3. Change in sleep patterns (either increase or decrease).
4. Difficulty concentrating.
5. Making depreciating statements like “I’m not good enough, I’m stupid…”
6. Persistent Sadness.
7. Excessive clingy behavior or withdrawal from human interaction.
8. Recurring thoughts of Suicide.
*Seek medical attention immediately if your child tells you they have thoughts of harming him or herself.
If you notice any of these concerning behaviors in your child or foster child, it may be time to get some help. The first step may be to have a genuine heart to heart talk. Make time to give your child some undivided attention to find out if there was anything that triggered their depressive mood.
If your foster child is exhibiting signs of depression, make sure you let his or her caseworker know your concern so you can be referred to a physician, therapist, or counselor for help. Take time out to be there for your child. Be aware of who he or she is spending his or her time with.
Consider treating depression as a family activity. If your family focuses on proper nutrition, some form of exercise (walking, yoga, etc), and having meals together to facilitate bonding and communication this can do a lot to ease your little one out of their depressive state. Devote thirty minutes or more a day for open air recreation for yourself and your family. Visits to the zoo, active play, and swimming tend to relieve tension created in the home, school, and work. Making treatment a family goal will lessen the stigma that often accompanies depression.
Depression is a treatable illness for both children and adults. Those who are struggling with clinical depression feel hopeless, as if nothing will ever get better for them. There is help available. If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, you can get help at suicidepreventionlifeline.org or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).