Sneha, 10 years old, had been behaving quite strangely in the past few days. She had been distancing herself from her friends. She felt that she was not good enough for anything because she made mistakes. She even lost interest in pursuing her dance class, which she used to like earlier. Her parents have raised her in a loving and nurturing environment. But sometimes Sneha refuses to talk to them as well. She has been feeling extremely irritable lately and often complains of headache. Her parents are now extremely worried because Sneha has been telling her friends that she wants to end her life and kill herself.
Depression has been on the rise these days. Children and adolescents have become vulnerable to several factors that leads to depression. Research (Abela & Hankin, 2008) indicates that individuals who are extremely critical of themselves and tend to rely on others for approval tend to be at a higher risk of depression. With exam pressure and competition on the rise, children and adolescent are consistently given the message to perform better than others. They are put in different classes and programs to ensure that they know it all. In addition, the children are further subjected to peer pressure and influential messages from the media that further deteriorates their self-esteem. All of this makes children and adolescents even more prone to experiencing clinical depression. This begs the question: How does one identify signs of depression in children?
Depression in children appears differently than depression in adults. Children might not have the vocabulary to express their feelings and thoughts. They might be even confused about their own experience and end up expressing irritation rather than sadness. Hence as parents it is crucial to remain observant and look out for the following signs to understand whether your child is experiencing depression.
Children might be disinterested in playing out with other children, engaging in new activities or learning something new. They would have a difficult time concentrating. Perhaps they might mention being low on energy.
They would become irritable and get upset with things easily. They might cry not knowing what bothers them. Parents might see children going through mood swings.
Changes in appetite and sleep, where children might be overeating or undereating and not sleeping appropriately.
They might also express feelings of worthlessness. They could probably make statements like “I am good for nothing”, “no one wants to be my friend”. They would extremely sensitive to rejection.
Some children also experience thoughts of suicide or ending their life. They might actively talk about harming themselves or ending their lives.
If you know of someone or find that your child is exhibiting signs of depression (especially thoughts of suicide), please do not dismiss it. Reach out to a child psychiatrist or a medical practitioner immediately to seek help. To further understand and learn about depression in children, speak with a qualified counsellor by calling in at 1800-270-1790.