National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week: Depression in Children

Community Member

The National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health has designated this week, May 2-8, as National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week. This awareness week is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the mental health issues of children and to promote emotional well being for all children and youth.

We thought we would do our part here on My Depression Connection by discussing depression in children. I do have some personal experience with parenting a child who has mental health issues. My son Max has autism but he also has difficulties with regulating his moods. I can tell you that it is very difficult as a parent to see your child suffer and to feel powerless about what to do. But the good news is that there is hope and there is treatment for children who have mental disorders.   My son sees a neurologist for his autism and his mental health issues and this has made a huge impact on my son's emotional well being. So if you are the parent of a child who suffers from depression or a mood disorder, you are not alone.   I am going to give you a ton of information and resources to help you and your child.

When we think of depression we usually think about adults but the fact is that children can suffer from depression as well. Here are some quick facts about children and depression gleaned from "Depression and Suicide in Children and Adolescents" from Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General:

  • The most frequently diagnosed mood disorders in children and adolescents are major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder.

  • Mood disorders in children can substantially increase the risk of suicide, so this is one major concern when a child is diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder. Statistics show that over 90 percent of children and adolescents who commit suicide have some sort of mental disorder.

  • Approximately two-thirds of children and adolescents with major depressive disorder also have another mental disorder. For my son that other disorder is autism. Other co-morbid conditions may include ADHD, and Anxiety related disorders.

  • The duration of a Major Depressive Episode for children and teens is usually 7-9 months.

  • Children who experience depression will usually have a reoccurrence. The Report from the Surgeon General states that: "Twenty to 40 percent of depressed children relapse within 2 years, and 70 percent will do so by adulthood."

These are some serious statistics which show that we need to be vigilant about the mental health of our children and to seek help for them if they show signs of having a mood disorder including depression.

Here are some of the signs of depression in children and adolescents: (Sources: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and The National Institutes of Mental Health):

  • Persistent sadness, tearfulness, and hopelessness.

  • No longer interested in spending time with friends or pleasurable activities.

  • Increased irritability, anger, and agitation.

  • Missing school or overall decline in grades and school performance.

  • Somatic complaints such as headaches, stomachaches and feeling fatigued.

  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits.

  • Regression in behaviors to those of a younger child such as bed wetting.

  • Self destructive and reckless behaviors.

  • Feelings of excessive guilt or feeling as though they don't matter.

  • Thoughts of self harm or suicide. Some teens may self mutilate through cutting their skin.

  • Experimenting with drugs and alcohol

If you are the parent of a child or teen who suffers from depression, we have many articles to help you. I have included some here:

  • [Depression Signs in Teenagers]

If you need to call someone about finding help for your depressed child or teen here are three resources with telephone numbers:

If you suspect that your child or teen is suffering from a mood disorder please get them treatment as soon as possible. If you need support, information or resources, please know that we are here for you