5 Ways to Combat Child Depression

May 14, 2012 — 1,453 views  
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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, childhood depression has only been taken seriously as a real illness in the past two decades. This is because children go through a wide array of behaviors and phases as they are developing. An estimated 5 percent of children and adolescents in America suffer from depression at any given point of time, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).

While the signs of a depressed child may differ from the behavior of an adult experiencing the same condition, there are a number of indications that could help social workers or educators identify depression. A few symptoms of child depression include decreased interest in activities, poor concentration and increased irritability or anger.

According to Treating Childhood Depression in Pediatrics by Martha U. Barnard, Ph.D at the University of Kansas Medical Center, the average length of a depressed episode is nine months. However, an estimated 20 percent of depressed children remain ill for a year, another 40 percent are depressed again within two years and 70 percent in five years.

Consider consulting with a trained medical professional who has experience in adolescent psychology if you suspect there is a problem. If a child is depressed, consider using one or a combination of these five ways to combat the illness.

1. Monitor treatment. Social workers are the necessary glue between the various professionals that will address a case of childhood depression. By monitoring treatment and ensuring that communication between all parties including doctors, parents and therapists, a professional can ensure nothing in treatment is being left out.

2. Remain open to communication. According to Social Work Policy, social workers are important to the treatment of depression in children. Professionals employ a variety of methods with the child, which may include individual counseling, crisis intervention services, family therapy and the mobilization of support networks. Scheduling a breakthrough or determining when the child needs to talk something out can be hard. A social worker can make themselves available in situations where other professionals may be unable to do so.

3. Healthy nutrition. Child depression can impact appetite. Some people will not want to eat, yet others will want to eat all the time. Whatever the case may be, monitor diet and make sure to limit mood enhancers such as caffeine or sugar. Instead, encourage healthy eating habits involving plenty of natural ingredients, such as fruit and nuts.

4. Medication. Due to the complexities of child depression, medication should be used sparingly, and all dosages should be closely monitored by a physician.

5. Activity. Letting a child dwell on problems or concerns will most likely increase their feeling of stress, anxiety or sadness. Instead, if they are inclined, actively promote socialization in groups and activities that are healthy and promote concentration to help them divert their mind from troubling issues.