Children and depression
Like adults, children with depression have a change in mood that persists and affects their everyday lives. They might not say they feel sad, but they might seem down, grumpy or irritable. Children with depression can feel hopeless and that they are no good at anything, or that things are their fault when they aren’t. Behavioural problems, on top of the mood changes, can be a sign of depression.
Possible signs of depression in children:
- not wanting to see friends and family
- being irritable or angry
- not having the energy to do things
- having sleep problems (not being able to sleep at night or feeling sleepy in the day)
- losing or gaining weight
- having trouble concentrating
- feeling hopeless and that they are no good at anything
- feeling like things are their fault when they aren’t.
Psychological therapies are the main treatment for children with depression. This may include supportive counselling or help with specific problems (e.g. abuse, grief, and problems with family relationships, school or friends). Psychological therapies should be given by professionals trained in child mental health.
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
If you’re a kid and you need to talk to someone about problems at home or you are feeling sad or worried, you can call Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.
You won’t have to tell them your name if you don’t want to. What you talk about is just between you and your phone counsellor.
Antidepressants and suicide risk
Studies of children and adolescents have shown there may be a small increase in the risk of suicidal thinking and/or behaviour with antidepressants (mainly SSRIs). Antidepressants have only a small role in treating children and adolescents, because there is less evidence that they are effective and because of the possible increase in the risk of suicide. They should be used only under the supervision of a child psychiatrist or adolescent psychiatrist.
For more information about children and depression, see the Black Dog Institute.
- National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. Depression in children and young people, 2005. London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2005. www.nice.org.uk/CG28 (accessed 21 February 2012).
- Jureidini JT, Tonkin A. Suicide and antidepressants in children. Aust Prescr 2005;28:110-1. www.australianprescriber.com/magazine/28/5/110/1
- Hall W, Kisely S, Wilson F; Psychiatric Drug Safety Expert Advisory Panel. Report of the Psychiatric Drug Safety Expert Advisory Panel. Canberra: Therapeutic Goods Administration, 2009. www.tga.gov.au/safety/alerts-medicine-ssri-pdseap-091224.htm (accessed 21 February 2012).
- McDermott B, Baigent M, Chanen A, et al; beyondblue Expert Working Committee. Clinical practice guidelines: depression in adolescents and young adults. Melbourne: beyondblue, 2010. beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?link_id=6.1247 (accessed 21 February 2012.
- Stone et al. Risk of suicidality in clinical trials of antidepressants in adults: analysis of proprietary data submitted to US Food and Drug Administration. BMJ 2009; 339: b2880. www.bmj.com/content/339/bmj.b2880?view=long&pmid=19671933