Depression in children appears to start as early as age 11, according to a new study published in the journal of Translational Psychiatry.
How can parents tell if a child that young is depressed?
“The child may not say, ‘I’m sad’,” says Dr Victor Fornari, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, in the US.
Depression often begins in children as high anxiety, Dr Fornari says.
They may refuse to go to school or may worry about a parent dying. They may have headaches, stomach aches or pretend to be sick. They may be afraid to fail or be rejected.
They may not feel comfortable doing things they once felt comfortable doing.
“With 11- or 12-year-olds, usually you look for a change in functioning,” Dr Fornari says. It could be a change in sleep habits or appetite, or a loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
“Irritability can be a hallmark of depression,” he says. “Everything annoys them. They fight with the parents. They fight with siblings.”
Parents think it’s a discipline issue, but at age 11, kids aren’t usually so rebellious, Dr Fornari says. “They’re having a problem; they’re not being bad,” he says.
Children may have negative thoughts about themselves or their bodies. They may be extremely sensitive to being teased. “When people are feeling bad, comments can really feel like harpoons,” Dr Fornari says.
If parents suspect depression, they should contact a paediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation.
Talking to the child’s teachers can also help, because they may also notice changes in behaviour or demeanour.
A child can be referred to a mental health professional for cognitive behavioural therapy or medication if necessary. – Tribune News Service
You can find a local directory of counselling services on the Malaysian Mental Health Association website.