Mental illness is not just an adult problem. Children and teens can experience things like depression and anxiety. While you might expect your child to be moody or out of sorts every now and then (especially in their teenage years), depression in children and teens can be a serious problem. Because Mental Illness Awareness Week is coming up in October (from the 4th to the 10th), now is a good time to talk about dealing with children or teens who are experiencing depression.

What Does Depression in Children & Teens Look Like?

Depression in children and teens may include the following signs and symptoms:

  • Irritable or sad mood for a majority of the day
    • Being tearful
    • Acting cranky
    • They communicate that they feel sad or angry
  • Not enjoying things that used to make them happy
  • Low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness
  • Sleeping too little at night or too much during the day
  • Changes in eating habits and weight
    • Weight gain
    • Weight loss
    • Loss of appetite
    • Binge eating
  • Isolating themselves away from friends and family
  • Lack of energy and inability to do normal tasks
  • Aches and pains without a physical cause

Helping a Depressed Child or Teen

If you notice the signs of depression in children or teens, then you should seek help from their pediatrician and other professionals. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends the following steps to help with depression in children and teens:

  • Talk to your child openly about their feelings
  • Talk to your child’s doctor to discuss possible medical problems that are linked to depression
  • Ask your child’s pediatrician about possible screening tests. Many doctors will screen children every year from ages 12 through 21.
  • Seek help from a psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor if needed.
  • Promote general health and wellness
    • Diet
    • Sleep
    • Exercise
    • Positive social connections
    • Limiting screen time
  • Have one-on-one time with your child and provide praise and encouragement
  • Provide a safe and healthy environment for kids
    • Make sure to secure knives, guns, ropes, cables, and/or medication, especially if your child or teen has exhibited suicidal behavior
  • Educate others about your child’s condition to avoid misconceptions that they are cranky, lazy, or making up symptoms.
  • Follow the treatment plan your child’s care providers prescribe
    • Don’t be impatient, it can take time for treatment to be effective

The Mental Health Care Team

As the American Academy of Pediatricians outlines, if your child is struggling with depression or another mental health issue, their care team may include the following professionals:

  • Pediatrician: Your child’s pediatrician should be an integral part of their mental health care team. They can help with both diagnosis and a treatment plan for your child that may include a therapy referral and medication.
  • Psychiatrist: An MD who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental disorders. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications because they are medical doctors. They are responsible for diagnosing mental disorders and prescribing therapy and medication and may be a needed referral by your pediatrician in certain circumstances. They can refer their patients and/or their family members to talk therapy while the psychiatrist focuses on medication.
  • Licensed Psychologist: A counselor with a master’s degree or doctoral degree in psychology. Many tests used to assess a child’s or teen’s psychological health have to be administered by licensed psychologists.
  • Licensed Professional Counselor: Has a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or related field and provides talk therapy and counseling.
  • Mental Health Counselor: Has a master’s degree and several years of supervised clinical work experience. Provides talk therapy and counseling.
  • Marital and Family Therapist: Has a master’s degree with special education and training in marital and family therapy.

Make an Appointment

The team at Carithers Pediatric Group is here to provide comprehensive care for your children at all stages of life. During this time, the safety of your family and our team members is of the utmost importance. Please read the Carithers Coronavirus Emergency Action Plan to stay up-to-date on our policies. If you have concerns about depression in children and teens and want to make an appointment, call our Riverside office at (904) 387-6200 or our Southside office at (904) 997-0023.