Depression can affect people of all ages including children and adolescents.
Globally, depression is the number one illness among 10-19 year olds and suicide is the third leading cause of death (World Health Organization, 2014). If children and adolescents get the necessary care for their mental health, we can prevent suicides and avoid suffering that could occur throughout their life.
Children who develop depression often continue to have episodes as they enter adulthood. They are also more likely to have other severe illnesses accompanied with depression in their adult life.
Symptoms of depression in children may present differently than in adults. Here are some additional things to watch for:
- pretending to be sick
- refusing to go to school
- clinging to a parent or caregiver
- worrying about the death of a parent/caregiver
- outbursts of shouting, complaining, or crying
- lack of interest in playing with friends
Older children may:
- get into trouble at school, act out
- be negative
- be irritable
- feel misunderstood
- have poor school/academic performance
- have frequent absences from school
- exhibit chronic boredom
*Because these signs may be viewed as normal mood swings typical of children as they move through developmental stages, it may be difficult to accurately diagnose a young person with depression.
Before puberty, boys and girls are equally likely to develop depression. By age 15, however, girls are more likely to have had a major depressive episode.
Depression during teen years comes at a time of great personal change-when boys and girls are forming an identity apart from their parents, grappling with gender issues and emerging sexuality, and making independent decisions for the first time in their lives. Depression in adolescence frequently co-occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse. It can also lead to increased risk for suicide.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 1 in 9 students attempt to take their life before graduating high school, with 40% in grade school. An increase in suicide attempts happens when students reach sixth grade, or an average age of 12.
With hopelessness as the number one symptom of depression and leading predictor to suicide (Association of Physicians, 2004), iFred developed a free curriculum program called Schools for Hope based on research that suggests hope is a teachable skill. Our goal is to provide fifth grade students with the social and emotional learning tools to have and maintain hope throughout life’s challenges. By providing students with pathways to hope, no matter what they may experience, we ultimately can save lives. iFred aims to teach hope to children around the world. For information on how your school and community can be involved, please visit our website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can make a difference in the life of a child. #teachhope
Immediate Telephone Support
If someone has talked to you about suicide, and you believe they are currently a threat to themselves or someone else but won’t take your help, call 911.
- (800)273-8255 …..1-800-273-TALK National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- (800)784-2432 …..1-800-SUICIDA Spanish Speaking Suicide Hotline
- (877)968-8454 …..1-877-YOUTHLINE Teen to Teen Peer Counseling Hotline
- (800)472-3457 …..1-800-GRADHLP Grad Student Hotline
Schools for Hope Information/Resources on Depression in Children
Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Children
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Children’s Mental Health Network
Choices Magazine by Scholastic “We Have Depression”
Contemporary Pediatrics Information and Screening Tools for Children and Adolescents
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Depression in Children and Teens
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Fact Sheet on Depression in Children and Adolescents
UMIND Inspiring Youth After a Suicide Attempt Webinar Presented by Dr. Jenn Brasch, McMaster University & St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton
Cyranowski J.M., Frank E., Young, E., Shear, M.K. Adolescent onset of the gender difference in lifetime rates of major depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 57:21-27. (2000).
Merry, S.N., Hetrick, S. E., Cox, G. R., Brudevold-Iversen, T., Bir, J. J., & McDowell, H. Cochrane Review: Psychological and education interventions for preventing depression in children and adolescents. Evidence Based Child Health: A Cochrane Review Journal, 7(5), 1409-1685. (2012).
Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Hilt, L. M. (EDS.) Handbook of depression in adolescents. Routledge. (2013).
Weissman, M. M., Wolk, S., Goldstein, R.B., Moreau, D., Adams, P., Greenwalk, S., Klier, C.M., Ryan, N.D., Dahl, R.E., & Wichramaratne, P. Depressed adolescents grown up. Journal of the American Medical Association, 281 (18): 1701-1713. (1999).