Help: My child is suffering from depression!

Did you know that young children can suffer from depression? Here’s how to support your child through negative feelings.

 Just like adults, children can also suffer from depression.

Sadness and unhappiness are normal feelings for children to experience. But when these feelings are prolonged, and if they are often experienced, then there’s a cause for concern.

The biggest myth about childhood depression is that it doesn’t exist. In fact, studies show that three percent of kids between pre-school age and 17 years old suffer from depression and that children as young as six or seven have been diagnosed with depression. According to SADAG statistics, up to 20 percent of children will suffer from depression in their school years.

Childhood depression in 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of upheaval and stress in families around the world. Many are dealing with huge economic pressures, and this can take its toll on parents, as well as kids.

While children may not know exactly what’s going on, they will sense when their parents are struggling to cope. It is highly likely that children become depressed when they experience stressful events or live in a stressful environment. Their natural coping skills have also been affected.

With schools being closed on and off during lockdown, kids haven’t had the comfort of ‘hanging out’ with their peers and playing outside.

Common symptoms of childhood depression

  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Low self-esteem – feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • A change in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in weight
  • Unusual sadness or increased irritability that persists even when circumstances change
  • Feelings of guilt and anger
  • Low energy
  • Academic success deterioration
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of suicide

Children with depression may not necessarily experience all these symptoms. But if several of the symptoms are present for at least two weeks, it can be suggested to be depression.

Treatment for childhood depression

Just as with adults, there are a number of ways that a child’s depression can be treated. Most recommended treatment for children would be psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy. This kind of therapy focuses mostly on talking about feelings and thoughts and how they impact one’s behaviour. Play therapy is also a great way for kids who are not that verbally equipped to do talk therapy.

Prescribed medication should be used “cautiously”. However, some children are given antidepressants together with psychotherapy for best results.

Supporting a child who is suffering from depression

Your child needs emotional support, and you need to be their number one person.

The following tips can help:

  • Spend quality time with your child
  • Encourage open and honest conversations
  • Listen to what your child has to say
  • Acknowledge their inner struggles
  • Inspire your child to join online activities to boost their ‘connection’ with other people
  • Remember that a healthy lifestyle is key to managing the symptoms of depression (for adults and children).