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Symptoms of depression among children, teens

Symptoms of depression among children, teens


When we think of depression, we think of adults and often don’t think about kids, but depression is not just for adults. While there is a lot of information about depression in adults, it is often difficult to know how many children and adolescents suffer from mental health issues. In part, it is because the symptom presentation might be somewhat different or even missed but the data we do have suggests that 0.9% of pre-school children have depression, 1.9 % of school-aged kids and 4.7% of adolescents suffer. A study in the United States of adolescents aged 11-16 found that over one year, 3.3% suffered major depression.

Some of the symptoms of depression may change with age. In children, we are more likely to see physical complaints, irritability and social withdrawal which is sometimes mistaken for shyness. In puberty and older we often see the more typical complaints of loss of interest.

The Canadian Mental Health Association reminds us that symptoms may include:

  • Changes in feelings-unhappy, worried, guilty, angry, sadness
  • Physical changes-Headaches, fatigue, trouble sleeping or eating
  • Changes in thinking-low self-esteem, self-blame, trouble concentrating
  • Changes in behaviour- withdrawn, less interest, outbursts of anger or tears

It might be difficult for parents to understand how their child could be depressed but pressures from school and growing up might be hard to cope with. During he ages of 15-18, the incidence of overall rates of depression and onset of new cases peaks and the rates of depression for girls can be as much as 2 times higher than boys. Symptoms of major depression in adolescence strongly predict adult depression.

It is also important to know that mood disorders increase the risk of suicide. Suicide attempts also peak in the mid adolescent years and the death rate from suicide increases through the teenage years. In Canada, suicide accounts for 24 percent of all deaths among 15-24-year-olds and 16 per cent among 16-44-year-olds. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24. Seventy-three percent of hospital admissions for attempted suicide are for people between the ages of 15 and 44. It is important to keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your child and their teacher. Your family doctor is a good place to start. Depression is indeed treatable. While in children medication is often not recommended, in severe cases it can add benefit. This time of year is one of transition and can be difficult on our kids.

Here are some common warnings of suicide risk:

  • sudden change in behaviour (for better or worse)
  • withdrawal from friends and activities,
  • lack of interest
  • increased use of alcohol and other drugs
  • the recent loss of a friend, family member or parent, especially if they died by suicide
  • conflicting feelings or a sense of shame about being gay or straight
  • mood swings, emotional outbursts, high level of irritability or aggression
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • preoccupation with death, giving away valued possessions
  • talk of suicide: eg.

    Here are some common warnings of suicide risk:

    • sudden change in behaviour (for better or worse)
    • withdrawal from friends and activities,
    • lack of interest
    • increased use of alcohol and other drugs
    • the recent loss of a friend, family member or parent, especially if they died by suicide
    • conflicting feelings or a sense of shame about being gay or straight
    • mood swings, emotional outbursts, high level of irritability or aggression
    • feelings of hopelessness
    • preoccupation with death, giving away valued possessions
    • talk of suicide: eg

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