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Depression and Children

by The Kid's Doctor Staff


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Kids Depression 1


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Kids Depression 2

A study released earlier this year by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration shows that more than 2 million teenagers have suffered a serious bout of depression during the past year.

“Depression is the leading cause of suicide which in turn is the third leading cause of death in kids 15 to 24 years of age. The pressure kids perceive they are under is enormous, from school, parents, peers, media, you name it and our kids are out there facing it,” says pediatrician Dr. Sue Hubbard.

Depression can be mild to serious. In youth, depression is two to three times more common in girls says child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Portteus. “Depression we know is associated with changes in brain chemicals or neurotransmitters, so it’s really a lot more than a bad mood. Depression is a medical condition,” he says.

Dr. Hubbard says that symptoms of depression can include changes in relationships with friends, decreased participation in activities, decreased focus in school with changing grades, and not being as involved with the family. “Many have sleep issues or want to sleep too much,” she says.

“I think a lot of times we see that kids may have felt cranky for a while, things that just normally wouldn’t be a big deal to them are getting on their nerves and are have more meltdowns and crying more easily. And we certainly can see that once and a while, but if it’s lasting for more than two or three weeks a parent might really want to think ‘might my child be depressed?’” says Dr. Portteus.

Genetics/family history can be a factor says Dr. Portteus. “We know that if a parent has depression, the child has about a three-fold increase in the possibility of being depressed and if both parents have that medical condition, the rates can be even higher.” He advises parents with a history of depression keep an eye on their children for possible signs of depression.

If a parent suspects a child is depressed, both doctors advise calling the pediatrician to schedule an appointment. The pediatrician will guide the family as to a next step such as a therapist, psychiatrist or psychologist.

Treatment varies from child to child, depending on how severe the depression is. Often individual therapy or family therapy is recommended. Medicine is sometimes needed also. Anti-depressant medication can be very helpful to get kids feeling better again says Dr. Portteus.

Dr. Hubbard concurs saying “there are some kids who need to be on medication very quickly because they are extremely depressed, they may need to be hospitalized and then we’ve got a group of kids who may do very well with just some intensive counseling and therapy who will never need to be on medication and there are many kids who might do therapy for a while and you don’t see much progress and then you start talking about putting them on medication.”

If left untreated, depression can last seven to nine months.
More Information: Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

More Information: National Institute of Mental Health

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