• Children are no exception to face emotional problems
  • Mood changes can present as sadness, fear, anger or behavioral problems
  • Children at risk of developing depression include those:
    • Experiencing stressful situations e.g. parental rejection
    • Experiencing loss e.g. death of a family member
    • Having a family member with a history of depressive illness
    • Having childhood psychiatric problems such as Attention deficit hyperactive disorder, Learning disorder, Anxiety disorder, Substance abuse and Early conduct disorder

What are the signs of depression?

Changes may manifest in:

  1. Behaviour
    • Sadness, tearfulness or crying episodes
    • Isolation
    • Anger or hostility
    • Strained relationship
    • Frequent absences from school
    • Wanting to run away from home
    • Self destructive behaviour
  2. Mood / Emotion /Thinking
    • Sense of misery
    • Poor concentration
    • Low self worth
    • Feeling hopeless or helpless
    • Feeling bored
    • Sensitive to remarks or rejection
    • Irritability
  3. Physical changes
    • Low energy level
    • Change in sleep or eating patterns
    • Physical complaints like headache, stomachache etc.
    • Weight changes

When should one call for help?

It is advisable to seek help when the:

  • Child continues to feel low or unhappy 
  • Child experiences persistent loss of joy
  • The negative emotions interfere with daily functioning

Can depression lead to other problems?

Depression in childhood may lead to:

  • Interference with normal progress of growing up
  • Interference with functions e.g:
    • Learning
    • Forming relationship with family members, friends or teachers
  • Serious behavioral problems e.g. conduct disorder
  • Substance abuse to get comfort e.g. tobacco, alcohol, drugs
  • Risk of self harm
  • Risk of suicide

Can we do anything to help the child?

  • Early detection and diagnosis are important
  • Psychological support must be provided to help the child
    • Learn positive thinking. Guide the child to examine and correct negative thought patterns and erroneous negative belief about self.
    • Cope positively with life events, changes, fear, anger, frustrations etc
    • Develop positive social skills
  • Counseling is also necessary for the
    • Individual
    • Family
    • School
  • Antidepressant medication may be prescribed by a Psychiatrist

Can depression be prevented?

Much can be done to provide a positive environment for a child. For e.g.:

  • Help the child deal with life events positively
  • Gives him psychological support when he faces problems
  • Provide accepting, warm, responsive and trusting relationship
  • Set a good example, provide guidance and monitoring
  • Provide a warm, harmonious environment
Last Reviewed : 28 August 2020
Writer : Dr. Aminah binti Kassim
Reviewer : Dr. Nurulwafa bt. Hussain