depression OUT OF THE SHADOWS
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DEPRESSION IN CHILDREN
People used to think that children could not have depression. We now know that this isn’t true. About 2%
of school-age children appear to have major depression at any one time. It is very rare for pre-school age
children to have depression, but it does occur. Depression is caused by a variety of factors, including
genetics, environment and adverse life stresses.
Depression in children looks different than depression in adults. Symptoms of irritability and
aggressiveness are often more evident than those of sadness. Their symptoms are expressed physically, with
the child complaining about headaches or stomach aches. Parents might notice that the child is worrying
excessively about death, accidents or may cling more tightly to them and not want to go to school.
It is sometimes difficult for parents to know the difference between normal development and
depression. The key is to look at changes in behavior, intensity of behaviors and how long the behaviors last.
Children experiencing depression may start doing poorly in school, lose their friends and not get along with
Many doctors, clinics and schools have screening tools that can be used to determine if an assessment is
needed. An assessment is important to rule out other medical conditions and to determine the diagnosis.
Once there is a diagnosis, treatment options are discussed. There are usually two forms of treatment
presented: psychotherapy and medication.
Parents should not be afraid to ask questions such as why are you recommending this treatment, what are
the treatment goals, how will we know it is working, what are the risks and benefits and is there any
research to support the use of this treatment? If a professional is recommending medication be