National Crisis Group Offers 10 Tips on Spotting Depression in Children
BETHLEHEM, Pa., Oct. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Between 17 and 20 million Americans are affected by depression each year, but even as thousands of sites across the nation are gearing up to screen people and educate them about the condition on National Depression Screening Day (October 11), experts are warning America not to forget a largely overlooked part of our population: children.
In the face of the highly publicized pressures kids face today and a doubling of the suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds in just 10 years, children's experts are warning that it is time to take depression in children seriously. The CDC recently reported that data for the most recent year available indicate the overall youth suicide rate jumped 8% in one year -- and a staggering 76% among young women.
"Many people don't expect that children, especially very young ones - five, six, or seven years old -- can be depressed," says Dr. Herbert Mandell, medical director of the 125-year-old national children's crisis charity KidsPeace and the KidsPeace Children's Hospital in Orefield, Pennsylvania. "In addition, people rarely spot depression in children because kids often don't show all the same, more familiar signs and symptoms we see in adolescents and adults."
To help parents, teachers, and others, KidsPeace has put together ten tips on some of the more commonly seen signs of depression in children: These tips, which are also available at http://www.kidspeace.org , include:
1. DEPRESSED CHILDREN DON'T ALWAYS "LOOK" DEPRESSED
One of the problems with identifying depression in young children is
that they don't always show depression in the way older people do.
Instead of looking visibly "sad" and "depressed," as adolescents and
adults often do, young children sometimes show little sign outwardly,
but will instead manifest it behaviorally. Any new pattern of angry
outbursts, disciplinary problems in school, and aggressive or
negative behavior, including looking or acting bored, especially if
kids don't have a past history of such behaviors, calls for closer
2. SLEEP CHANGES. In adults, this may be trouble sleeping. In children
and younger teens, there may be an overabundance of sleep, withdrawing
and sleeping after school, or refusing to get out of bed. In older
adolescents, you're more likely to see patterns of trouble falling
asleep and early morning awakening.
3. APPETITE CHANGES.
Significant weight loss or gain (as much as 25 pounds) one way or the
other in a few months. Although it can vary, it is typical of older
teens to lose weight, while younger children and young teens may gain
4. IRREGULARITY OF BOWEL MOVEMENTS.
Withholding or accidents in children normally old enough to control
their bowel movements.
5. SCHOOL PROBLEMS.
Sudden negative changes in youngsters' interest or performance,
including a drop in grades, disciplinary problems, lack of completing
6. EXTENDED NEGATIVE REACTION TO CRISES.
A reaction more severe and longer than would normally be expected
following a death, divorce, a move to a new school, etc. Typically,
children can adapt to these stressors within several weeks to, in the
case of a death, up to a year.
7. LOSS OF INTEREST IN OLD PLEASURES.
The child loses interest and pleasure in activities that were
previously a source of enjoyment.
8. CHANGE OF FRIENDS AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOR
The child gives up old friends and there may be a shift in the type of
friends with whom the child spends time to a group perceived as less
desirable by parents.
9. EXPRESSING A SENSE OF HOPELESSNESS.
Listen well to children when they express a sense of hopelessness.
Take seriously young children and teens if they verbalize that they
have no hope for the future. Expressing feelings of hopelessness may
precede a suicide attempt.
10. PHYSICAL COMPLAINTS.
Children may complain of stomach aches or headaches. These complaints
may be accompanied by a withdrawal from typical activities, social
life, and a refusal to go to school. These complaints are cause for
concern and should be explored.
Older children and adolescents tend to be more similar to adults when depressed, with symptoms that are more familiar to the general public: Withdrawal, fatigue, irritability, loss of concentration,, greater interest in morbid themes, and loss of interest in good hygiene, along with signs listed above.
"It is not unusual for adolescents to go through periods of being sad or down," says KidsPeace President & CEO C.T. O'Donnell II. "In fact, it is pretty normal. However, it is important to realize that depression is serious, and some of these symptoms you may think are depression may be signs of other issues, including medical problems."
How to Take Action
When symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks, or if there is more than one, it is time to take action. Check the signs of childhood depression at http://www.kidspeace.org , talk to your family doctor and get help. Be sure to touch base with your child's school to share information, as well. Best of all, to make sure you are protecting your children, talk to your kids on an ongoing basis so that you know what is normal for your kids and what is not. If you suspect a problem, you can find a National Depression Screening Day center near you by going to the website http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org .
A resource for kids facing depression and other issues: TeenCentral.Net
One free resource to help children themselves is an innovative website, TeenCentral.Net, created by KidsPeace with the help and support of the nation's leading child experts at Harvard and Brown. TeenCentral.Net gives kids clinically screened help and advice, assisting kids to identify and work through problems before they become overwhelming.
National Depression Screening Day
National Depression Screening Day is held each year and is designed to call attention to the illnesses of depression on a national level. The week helps educate the public about symptoms and effective treatment, offers individuals the opportunity to be screened for the disorders, and can help connect those in need of treatment to the mental health care system. For a site near you, go to http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org .
KidsPeace is a 125-year-old national charity dedicated to giving help, hope and healing to America's children facing crisis. Founded in Bethlehem, Pa., this organization directly helps thousands of children a day at more than 50 centers around the country to overcome the crises of growing up. KidsPeace helps millions more each year through educational outreach and awareness programs designed to help America's kids and parents anticipate, intervene in and master crises that can affect any child -- from disasters and personal traumas to family issues and neglect to life-threatening depression, eating disorders, and the many stresses of modern life. KidsPeace was named "The Outstanding Organization" of its kind in the country by the American Association of Psychiatric Services for Children and was called "a prototype of what we need for all children everywhere" by the late, nationally renowned child and family expert, Dr. Lee Salk.
Contact: Mark Stubis, Vice President
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