Child & Youth Depression
Depression is normally associated with adults. We tend to view children as joyous and carefree – how could they possibly get depressed? Of course, children experience a wide arrange of emotions just like adults, and they often find it difficult to express their feelings depending on their age and stage of development. Children and teens may express their emotions differently and their emotions may seem heightened compared to adults, who may have learned to regulate (or hide) their emotions better. However, children and youth can, and do, experience depression and they too can experience sadness, hopelessness, and despair, like adults.
In teenagers, life’s pressures (school, relationships with friends, family, and romantic interests, self-imposed high standards, other pursuits such as sports, arts, hobbies, volunteering – and if they’re older, employment) can be very challenging and may lead to coping issues that can result in depression.
Also, traumatic events that children have witnessed or been victims of can result in depression, such as grief and loss, emotional or physical abuse, divorce, or alcohol and substance abuse.
Symptoms & signs of depression in children and youth
Children and youth may experience depression differently but there are some common things to watch for:
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness or despair
- Low self-esteem
- Frequent crying
- Regressing to a younger or infantile state
- Lack of concentration
- Trouble performing in school
- Anger issues and irritability
- Behaviour changes
- A sudden change in marks or performance
- Damaging behaviour (to self, others, or property)
- Avoiding activities they once enjoyed
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- Lack of appetite or overeating
- Lack of concentration
- Frequent stomach aches
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Feeling tired or low energy
When is it time to get help?
If you notice your child is exhibiting some of the symptoms listed above, and their daily activities are being affected, or if you notice mood or personality changes, see their marks suddenly drop or a decline in their performance on sports teams or at other activities, are alerted by a teacher or coach’s concerns, or if your child just seems to be “off’, it may be time to seek help.
Getting help for depression for youth (or adults) can be especially challenging because one of the symptoms is an inability to take action. If your child describes themselves as feeling down or numb, having thoughts of hopelessness and despair, avoiding loved ones and friends on a regular basis, it can be time to seek help. If they are having thoughts of suicide or repeated thoughts of death and dying – we can help.
If you, or someone you know is considering suicide, for immediate help outside of our office hours, throughout Alberta, please call 211 or one of the following distress lines:
Edmonton: The Crisis Centre call 780 482 HELP (4357)
Greater Edmonton region: Rural Distress Line at 1-800-232-7288.
Calgary: 403 266 HELP (4357)
Child and youth depression treatment methods
There are various treatments for depression in children and youth, depending on the age of the child. The therapist will assess your child and determine a therapy approach that will be best suited to their individual needs.
- Psychotherapy is a broad term that encompasses numerous styles of therapy and uses verbal or nonverbal communication with a client to help treat psychiatric problems, behavioral issues, personality disorders, and various other types of emotional distress. This form of personal counselling is based on an interpersonal relationship, as opposed to the alternative chemical or physical forms of therapy.
- Play therapy refers to a large number of treatment methods, all of which make use of one or more of the natural benefits of play, using toys, dolls, games, etc. Play allows children a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows them to express their true thought and feelings in ways best suited to their developmental level.
- Family systems therapy looks at the family as one emotional unit. This therapeutic approach looks at the relationships within the family and the structure as a whole.
- Eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is defined by EMDR Canada as an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma and many other mental health problems that utilized bilateral eye stimulation or somatic responding.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to treatment that focuses on how people’s thoughts, emotions, and beliefs influence their behaviour and how they perceive themselves.
- Art therapy clients use their imagination to approach and explore their emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Especially useful in young people and people with developmental delays, when their motor skills exceed their verbal skills, they’ll get more out of art therapy than talk-only.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy encourages clients to accept the difficulties and misfortunes of life. Clients learn coping techniques to not dwell on negative emotions by staying in the present.
What will I (or my child) get out of treatment with Insight Psychological?
If depression is affecting you or your child’s life, you should know that things can get better for them and for you! Our therapists at Insight can help your child to overcome the symptoms caused by depression by selecting a treatment or combination of therapies that will work best for them. Our child psychologists also treat children after traumatic events. If the child has just lost a parent or family member, or has been abused, it is advisable to have them see a psychologist. Professional help will allow the child to process the traumatic event, and transition into the new changes in their life.
Insight has therapists who specialize in treating children and adolescents. If your child or teen is struggling with depression, please contact us.