Childhood depression can often be mistaken as just child-like hormones as a part of growing up. According to the Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report, 60% of children with diagnosable depression are not in treatment. It is important not to ignore the signs of childhood depression and to create a safety plan to ensure that your child never considers suicide as an option.
You may think that if your child is always in a bad mood or is anti-social that they are just being moody. The truth is that depression is a sadness that is affecting their everyday life. All of the things that they used to enjoy like spending time with their friends or the effort they used to put into getting good grades is gone. They may be telling you that they are not hungry or have been skipping lunch at school. You may have heard them say things like “I don’t care anymore” or “I’m worthless.” They could get a lot of headaches as a result of their stress and have no care for the future. If you see any of these signs on a daily basis, do not ignore them and feel like they will go away with time.
In order to avoid feeling like you could have done something to prevent your child from hurting themselves, communicate with your child. Talk to your child about how they are feeling and if there is anything going on at school that is bothering them. They may feel hesitant to talk to you in believing that you are not minding your own business or that you are looking to change them. Just explain to your child the changes that you have noticed in them and speak to them like they should be comfortable enough to tell you anything. You should also call your child’s doctor as your child may have a medical condition that is the cause to their depression. Your doctor can refer your child to psychotherapy or prescribe them medication. From ages 12 through 21, your child’s doctor can also screen them for depression every year. Any suicidal thoughts your child will express to their doctor will treated like an emergency.
There is plenty that you can do for your child around the house. This includes making sure that your child eats, gets seven to eight hours of sleep, gets at least half and hour of exercise, and is socializing at school and being with their friends. You can suggest to them to join clubs of activities they would be interested in or to play sports to meet new people. If they are spending too much time on their phones or their computers, it means that they are not making real human connections. Tell them that they can be on their phones for no more than an hour and they need to spend the rest of that time interacting with their family or friends. When your kids accomplish something, make sure to compliment them for that so that they feel special and pleased with themselves.
If your child is being bullied at school, speak to them about it as bullying is the major cause of mental health problems. If you see any bruises on your child, talk to them about it and know that there is a solution to end the bullying such as speaking to the principal. You should also speak to your child if they are dealing with a loss or are grieving. Loss can be very hard for a child to handle as it is a rude awakening of how sad the world can be. As a parent, it is your job to help make this tragic event easier for them. If you as a parent are grieving, take notice of your child as well and try to heal together by finding grief counseling resources in your area. Try your hardest to lessen the stress in your house such as helping your child with homework assignments that are too hard for them to do. If they have any big projects, try to organize them by helping them get supplies or make a checklist of everything that needs to be accomplished so not everything feels like it needs to be done at once.
Lock away guns, sharp knives, long ropes, medications, or alcohol in a place where your child cannot find them to avoid a suicide attempt. You never want them to feel like there is anything in their environment for them to hurt themselves. You should do some research yourself about what depression feels like for a child as well as a symptoms. What seems like crankiness or laziness could end up being a bigger problem later if you let the symptoms persist. If you have anyone in your family with a history of depression, it may be wise to talk to them about what to do about your child. Maybe that relative can speak to the child themselves to better educate them.
It is best to develop a treatment plan for your child where they attend therapy a certain amount of times a week as well as taking any medication to lessen their symptoms of depression. You can also make a list of people for your child to speak to in case the symptoms worsen. If your child is experiencing Suicidal Thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
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