How to Help Your Child Deal With Depression

Depression is the most common mental health problem in the United States. You may know adults who struggle with depression, but children can become depressed, too.

Depression isn't just a bad mood or occasional melancholy. It's not just feeling down or sad, either. These feelings are normal in kids, especially during the teen years. Major depression in teens is a serious condition characterized by a persistent sad mood, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and the inability to feel pleasure or happiness. Major depression typically interferes with day-to-day functioning like eating and sleeping.

It’s important to seek treatment if you think your child may be depressed. Left untreated, depression can be a risk factor for suicide.

You can help your child by:

  • Recognizing the symptoms. The symptoms of depression in children may be harder to recognize and can include declining grades, lack of interest in favorite activities and fearful, anxious or aggressive behavior.
  • Seeking help. There is no need for your child to suffer through depression. Depression may be treated with a combination of therapy and medicine. Talk to your pediatrician or family doctor first. They may recommend a psychologist or psychiatrist who can further evaluate your child.
  • Monitoring medications. Children, especially teenagers, may seem responsible enough to handle taking their own medication, but you should monitor the process to ensure they don’t miss doses or quit taking medicines too soon.
  • Providing support. Show and tell your child that you love them unconditionally. Remind them often that you are there to listen. Provide reassurance and help when they need it. Let them know they aren’t alone in their recovery from depression.
  • Getting help yourself. If you have symptoms of depression or have trouble coping with your child’s depression, you may need help, too. A counselor can help you deal with any guilt, anger or frustration, which are normal reactions to your child’s diagnosis.

Learn more about Psychiatry services at Riley at IU Health to find expert, compassionate care near you. 

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