Updated: 2 days ago
Children and teens will go through times when they're feeling down and sad. This can be triggered by a specific event or loss. But depression is a mental health disorder that lasts for a longer period of time and can even occur when no situation or event has triggered it. Unfortunately, depression among children and teens has increased over the past decade. Pressures at school, both academic and with extracurricular activities, social media, loss, bullying, and exclusion are among some of the reasons behind depression in youth. COVID-19 and news events have also triggered depression in kids.
If your child has depression or you suspect that they might have it, it's important to address it right away and get them the treatment they need. If you're unsure whether or not they're depressed, you can get them screened for a diagnosis. It's also helpful to talk to your kids and encourage them to open up to you. Often, kids don't know how to express their thoughts and feelings or they feel afraid and embarrassed to. Before you start a conversation with them, you'll want to create a safe space for them. Let them know that you are there to support them and that you will listen without judgment. Start the dialogue with the changes you've noticed or questions about how they're feeling, but be careful not to say anything that might make them feel defensive. It might take a few tries and a few conversations with them to get them to really open up to you. The key is to be patient with them.
For kids with depression, there are various treatment options including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), interpersonal psychotherapy for adolescents (IPT-A), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and medications. Depending on the child and the severity of the condition, different treatments may work best. To learn more about these options, check out this guide from the Child Mind Institute.
As depression is a risk for suicide, you might have concerns about your child experiencing suicidal thoughts or plans to commit suicide. It's always beneficial to engage in conversations about suicide with your kid if they're struggling with depression or anxiety. Although some people believe that talking about suicide increases the likelihood of it happening, research shows that it does the opposite and can actually help in prevention.
Stay alert for signs of suicidal thoughts especially if you notice your child feeling depressed, changes in sleep and eating patterns, self-isolation, decline in academic performance, or any behavioral changes. Pay close attention to the language they use when you talk to them. If they say anything that indicates suicidal thoughts such as "I don't care about life anymore" or "I'm better off dead," be careful not to dismiss this as typical teenage drama. Let them know that you empathize with them and that you are there to support them through whatever they're dealing with.
If your child is self-harming or you believe they're at immediate risk for suicide, get them help right away. Call or text 988 for the Lifeline which provides 24/7 free and confidential support for anyone considering suicide. You can also use their online chat at 988lifeline.org. Secure any weapons or lethal tools and substances, including alcohol, to keep them out of reach. Locking these up can make sure your child does not have access to anything they can use to harm themselves.
Remember, our providers are here to support your family. If you have any concerns about your child's mental health, don't hesitate to call our office.