Children and adolescents are always sad, depressed or even desperate. However, if the sadness lasts longer and is stronger than normal, depression could be the cause. Especially important are then people they trust, where they can open-up without fears and tell everything about themselves.
Annoyance with the parents, bad grades at school, loss of friendships, dissatisfaction with oneself and one’s own body, first lovesickness: Children and adolescents often have a hard time.
Problems and difficult situations can make you sad, depressed or desperate. This is completely normal. But depression is more than just “not feeling well” or “having a bad day”: it can develop into a serious condition.
Depression often has several causes. Most of the time they arise through the interaction of biological processes in the body, psychological factors and experiences in the social environment. Not all of these factors can be influenced – but young people can learn to better deal with the challenges in their lives. This can also protect against depression.
How does depression develop in young people?
About 5 out of 100 children and adolescents have symptoms that indicate depression. Often there are problems in the family, losses (for example, a parent), difficulties in school and social isolation that cause depression. In addition, young people have a higher risk of depression, if they
- have family members with depression or other serious mental illness,
- have ever had depression or anxiety disorder in the past,
- were exposed to violence or abuse,
- have a very negative self or body image.
Also, a physical illness or side effects of certain medicines can contribute to a depression.
How can we prevent it?
Ideally, parents and other educators help a child develop a stable personality and deal with stress. It is also known that people with a stable attachment are less likely to develop depression.
When a child develops depression, it is important that family members and friends recognize it early. A sign can be when the child is no longer fun, drive-less and extremely retiring.
The older children get, the more strategies they develop to deal with problems and handle difficult situations independently. They learn through their own experiences as well as through family and friends. Sometimes, however, additional support is needed. One possibility is then to consult a psychological counseling center and discuss what help is available to them.
In some places, various programs and courses are offered to help children or adolescents to deal with stress and problems. In group sessions, for example, they learn to deal with stress, resolve conflicts and what they can do when they feel unhappy.
If a child or adolescent is suffering from crippling sadness or even thinking of not living anymore, it is important not to keep it to himself. Those who dare not address their friends or parents can contact a pediatrician or psychotherapeutic institution. There are also doctors specializing in the treatment of mental health problems in children and adolescents.
How are depression treated in children and adolescents?
For mild depression, it is possible to wait and see if the symptoms disappear again without treatment. During this time, it is important to support the child and, if necessary, to seek psychological counseling.
As with adults, depression in children and adolescents can be treated with psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or antidepressants. Because of the possible side effects, the drugs should be used with restrain. For example, there are indications that some antidepressants may cause adolescents to think more often about suicide.
What are young people still doing to deal with problems?
Many children and adolescents are active in sports or attend courses, for example in the sports club, which combine physical, psychological and often social elements. This can strengthen their emotional life. If a child or adolescent does not enjoy school sports, it might be worthwhile to look elsewhere for sports and classes that are not as demanding as their performance and enjoyment of movement.
Quite a few adolescents keep a diary to organize their thoughts, worries and feelings and to deal with them better. Some also find comfort in a pet. But talking to other people and feeling connected to them is especially important for emotional health.
Young people with depression, as well as their parents, can also turn to the helplines, family, child and youth counseling centers. Also, pediatricians and psychotherapeutic specialists advise and support. In many schools, social workers, school psychologists or trusted teachers are available as contact persons and partners. Many young people search the internet for information and exchange information via social networks as well as in forums.
Learning to handle difficult emotional and life situations is an important part of growing up. But coping with depression or anxiety disorder is never easy. Even if a young person has already overcome depression, the fear of relapse can be a burden. Then it’s important to know what you can do yourself and where to get help when you need it.