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Depression

Introduction

  • 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 eg parental rejection
    • Experiencing loss eg 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 : 02 July 2008
Writer : Dr. Aminah binti Kassim