What are the signs of depression in children and youth?

This article was originally published on Facebook as part of PCC's 2014 Children's Mental Health Week campaign. We also published articles about child and youth anxiety and behavioural challenges, which are available to read on our website. 

When you hear the word “depression”, what comes to mind? Perhaps you can recall a period in your life when you found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, or when you had a hard time focusing on tasks at work. Or maybe you remember feeling tired, alone and sad all the time for no obvious reason. These are all symptoms of depression in adults, but did you know that children and youth can experience depression, too? 

Symptoms of depression appear differently in children and adolescents than they do in adults. For example, very young children lack the knowledge to clearly explain their feelings, so they may complain of physical symptoms like a headache, stomach ache or other aches and pains. Older children and teens will exhibit moodiness and behaviours like not paying attention in class and fighting with their parents. When these behaviours are accompanied by persistent crying or feelings of sadness, it’s a sign that your teen is experiencing depression. If you notice your child is no longer interested in his or her favourite activities, avoiding spending time with friends, or eating or sleeping more or less than usual, it could be another sign he or she is suffering from depression.  

There are many causes of depression, including family history and life events, such as the death of a friend or family member. As your child grows, changes in his or her body and brain chemistry can also cause depression. The good news is that with appropriate treatment, recovery from depression is possible. Depending on your child’s needs, treatment may include counselling, medication and/or support groups. Self-care is another important part of treating depression. Encouraging your child or teen to eat well, exercise and have fun with friends and family can help support their recovery. 

If you are concerned that your child or youth may be suffering from depression, there is help available. Peel Children’s Centre offers a range of programs and services that can help your child or youth learn to cope with their depression. To access these services, call Mental Health Services for Children and Youth at 905-451-4655 to begin the intake process. Free walk-in counselling is also available throughout the week in Peel Region – learn more by visiting http://tangerinewalkin.com. In a crisis, you can call our Crisis Response Line at 416-410-8615 – this service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days year. 


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