Although most people think of depression as an adult illness, children and adolescents can develop depression as well. Unfortunately, many children with depression go untreated because adults don’t recognize they’re depressed.
It’s essential for parents, teachers, and other adults to learn about childhood depression. When you understand the symptoms of depression and the cause children develop it, you can intervene in a helpful manner.
Sometimes adults assume kids shouldn’t be depressed since they don’t have to worry about adult issues, like paying bills or running a household.
But kids experience stress too. And even children who live relatively stress-free lives may develop depression. Children who are raised in good homes with loving parents can become depressed.
Depression in Children Looks Different
While adults with depression tend to look sad, children and teens with depression may look more irritable and angry. You might see changes in behavior, such as enlarged defiance or a decline in grades at school.
- Defiant attitude
- Declining grades
- Physical complaints (stomach ache, headache)
Children May Resist Talking About Mental Health
Younger children often lack the language skills to verbalize their mood. They may not be capable to describe how they’re feeling or what they’re experiencing.
Older children who have a better understanding of what depression means may feel embarrassed or they may worry that they’re different.
Depression Isn’t a Sign of Weakness
Anyone can develop depression and it isn’t a sign of weakness. It also isn’t your fault if your child is depressed.
While stressful life events, like divorce, may contribute to depression, it’s only a small piece of the puzzle. Many other factors, including genetics, also play a role.
You Can Be Proactive About Your Child’s Mental Health
You can’t always prevent depression in children. But, you can take steps to proactively improve your child’s mental health, regardless of whether she has a mental health issue.
Talk about how caring for her body also helps her mind. Eating nutritious food, getting plenty of exercise, and sleeping the recommended number of hours each night is good for her mental health.