Children and teenagers with depression


Some studies have shown that almost one in four young people will experience depression before they reach 19 years old.
It is very important to get help early if you think your child may be depressed. The longer it goes on for, the more likely it is to cause disruption to your child’s life and turn into a long-term problem.

The symptoms of depression in children often include…

  • sadness, or a low mood that doesn’t go away
  • being irritable or grumpy all the time
  • not being interested in things they previously enjoyed
  • feeling tired and exhausted a lot of the time

Your child could also experience:

  • have trouble sleeping or sleep more than usual
  • not being able to concentrate
  • interact less with friends and family
  • be indecisive
  • not have much confidence
  • eats less than usual or overeats
  • have big weight changes
  • seems unable to relax or be more lethargic than usual
  • talking about feeling guilty or worthless
  • feeling empty or unable to feel emotions (numb)
  • have thoughts about suicide or self-harming
  • actual self-harm, for example, cutting their skin or taking an overdose

Some children have problems with anxiety as well as depression. Some also have physical symptoms, like headaches and stomach aches.
Problems at school can be a sign of depression in children and teenagers so can problem behaviour, particularly in boys.
Older children who are depressed may misuse drugs or alcohol.

Why is my child depressed?


Things that increase the risk of depression in children can include…

  • family difficulties
  • bullying
  • physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • a family history of depression or other mental health problems

Sometimes depression is triggered by a difficult event, such as parents separating, a bereavement, problems at school or with other children.
It is often caused by a mixture of things. For example, your child may have inherited a tendency to have depression but have also have experienced some difficult life events.

If you think your child may be depressed…


If you think your child may be depressed, it is important to talk to them. Try to find out what is bothering them and how they are feeling.
See some tips on talking to younger children and teenagers.
Whatever is causing the problem, it should be taken seriously. It may not seem a big deal to you, but it could be a major problem for your child.
If your child isn’t able to talk to you, let them know that you are concerned about them and reassure them that you’re there if they need you.
Encourage them to talk to someone else they trust, like another family member, friend or someone at school.
It may be helpful for you to talk to other people who knows your child, including other parents.
You could also contact their school to see if they have noticed anything different or have any concerns.

Seeking support…

  • Seek medical help if you suspect your child is depressed, make an appointment with them to see your GP.
    If necessary they can refer your child to their local child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) for specialist help.
    See more about CAMHS.
    If you are concerned about any aspect of your child’s mental health, you can call the charity YoungMinds’ free parents’ helpline on 0808 802 5544 for advice.
    The YoungMinds website also has mental health support and advice for your child.

If you suspect that your child or teenager is depressed, take the time to listen to their concerns. Even if you don't think the problem is of real concern, remember that it may feel very real to them. It’s important to try and keep communication open, even if your child seems to want to withdraw. Try to avoid telling your child what to do. Instead, listen closely and you may be able to get to the root of the problem. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to talk to your child, or if you continue to be concerned, seek professional help.