What is depression?
Depression is a low mood that impacts everyday functioning, such as engagement in social interests, home life, leisure activities, and school life that cannot be attributed to an underlying medical condition or other mental health condition. The low mood persists across weeks or years. In children it can look different, and children may not be able to articulate their mood and so parents can look for these signs of depression. It is important to note that depression is different to just having a sad day, however if sad mood is ongoing, it may indicate a more significant problem.
These are some of the symptoms of Depression in children that may be observed by others.
These symptoms would be observed most of the time or daily:
- Low mood or greater irritability most of the day
- Lack of interest in usual activities most of the time
- Weight loss or decrease to gain weight or a failure to gain weight
- Sleep challenges
- Feelings of restlessness and agitation
- Low energy or tiredness
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulties concentrating and make decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
What should I do if I think my child is experiencing depression?
If your child’s low mood persists, talk to your GP or pediatrician, and organise to see a psychologist
Contact your child’s school and discuss any notable concerns
If your child shows signs of risk such as suicidal thoughts, suicidal intent, or self-harm it is important to reach out to available crisis support services immediately or call 000.
How do I get support for my child with depression?
Our psychologists at Youthrive are here to help support you and your child. We provide comprehensive assessment and intervention for childhood depression.
There are many great organisations that can support you with information, resources, and research. These services can also offer one-on-one or group intervention support services.
Black dog institute
Contact number (02) 9382 4530
Youthbeyondblue & beyondblue
Contact number 1300 224 636
CYMHS Acute Response Team (24/7)
Contact number 3068 2555
Supporting your child through depression
- Be patient and kind; Take time to talk with your child one-on-one and be curious about their feelings
- Listen and validate your child’s feelings
- Spend quality time with your child
- Talk about sadness and how everybody at one time or another may feel ‘low or sad’
- Identify a support network of people across home, community and school that your child can go to for support and have a chat
It’s important to note that ignoring something like a tantrum won’t make it stop immediately, and will often get worse before it gets better, so it may take a few times of ignoring tantrums or other behaviours before they cease.
Making this change takes patience and practice, and because you are human, you may not get it right 100% of the time, and that’s ok. If you do get it wrong, it can be an opportunity for a teachable moment by apologising, expressing your own frustrations and talking about what you would do differently next time.
In addition to responding with positive attention, also making time – even 10 minutes a day – to initiate an activity where you are giving them positive attention will also increase the bond you have with your child, which is a protective factor of children’s mental health in general.
Feeling flat here are some mood boosters. Coping strategies
- Watch a movie
- Read your favourite book
- Journal your thoughts
- Connect with others, call a friend, or talk to someone in your support network or your parents
- Go for a walk outside and connect with nature
- Cuddle a pet
- Listen to music
- Join in enjoyable physical activities
- Focus on your strengths, if you are creative person do something creative! If you enjoy sport do something physical!
- Look for activities that help to keep you grounded in the present moment (e.g., on a walk – what can you see, what can you hear, what can smell, what can you taste, what you smell, what can you touch)
Brittni Sirett and Mellissa Hooper