R U OK? Signs of Depression in Children

Thursday of last week was national “R U OK?” day — a day when we are inspired to meaningfully connect with the people around us who may be struggling.

“R U OK?” aims to support people suffering from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety by increasing awareness, encouraging friends and family to reach out, and teaching ways to help and support those around us.

45% of Australians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime, and one in seven will experience depression.

And while “R U OK?” has an emphasis on suicide prevention, it does bring up the important issue of being aware and open about mental health issues with those around us, and to take away the stigma from these increasingly common challenges.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the warning signs of depression in young people.

You may notice the following signs in a child suffering from depression:

  • Difficulty in engaging with tasks and getting motivated
  • Consistently low mood
  • Frequent crying and whining while being resistant to reassurement and comfort
  • Irritability
  • Outbursts of anger resulting in feelings of guilt and misery
  • Concerns from school teachers and caretakers
  • Constant fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy
  • Sleep problems
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Lack of socialising

Any one of these signs on its own for a short period is not a major concern. But if your child has several symptoms that persist over time, they may be in need of some extra help.

Here’s what to do if you think your child may be depressed:

  1. Be supportive and make time to listen. Don’t dismiss their emotions, ignore them and hope they’ll go away, or simply work on trying to cheer them up. Take the time to let them know you understand what they’re going through, and that you will make the effort to get them through it.
  2. Keep a focus on routine. Depressed kids get consumed by negative emotions. The more they have time to think about them, the worse these negative thoughts and emotions become. So try to distract them by keeping their usual activities and routines in place as much as you can.
  3. Keep active. Depression has mental and physical effects; keeping physically active will help to improve both.
  4. Seek professional help. A qualified child psychologist is trained and equipped with the tools to help your child develop better coping mechanisms and strategies to deal with depression (and any related anxiety). At the very least, sometimes simply having an impartial person to speak to about their problems can do a world of good.

If you are worried about your child and would like some independent professional help, you are welcome to get in touch.

(Note: Some of the symptoms of depression also overlap with symptoms of anxiety.)

Other resources for dealing with youth depression:

https://kidshelpline.com.au

https://www.youthbeyondblue.com

http://www.parentline.org.au

https://www.headspace.org.au 

Related reading:

https://www.melbournechildpsychology.com.au/blog/parents-look-mental-health-child-struggling/

https://www.melbournechildpsychology.com.au/blog/how-counselling-rewires-the-brain/

https://www.melbournechildpsychology.com.au/blog/helping-teenagers-who-self-harm/

https://www.melbournechildpsychology.com.au/blog/the-benefits-of-mindfulness-and-meditation-for-kids-and-adults-alike/

https://www.melbournechildpsychology.com.au/blog/anxiety-in-younger-children-why-early-intervention-matters/

References:

https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/mental-health-difficulties/depression/depression-how-depression-affects-children

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