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Factsheet: Childhood Depression: Tips for Parents

All children “feel blue” from time to time, have a bad day or are sad. However, when these feelings persist and begin to interfere with a child’s daily life, depression could be the cause.

It is important to understand that depression is not a personal weakness, a character flaw or a mood that a child can simply “snap out of.” Depression is different from feelings of grief or sorrow that follow a major loss, such as a death in the family. It is a common mental health problem that affects people of all ages, including children. In fact, according to the Center for Mental Health Services, as many as 1 in 33 children and 1 in 8 teens have depression. Fortunately, depression is very treatable.

What can parents do if they suspect their child may have depression?

  • Talk to your child about how he or she is feeling.
  • Educate yourself about depression. The more you know, the better position you are in to help your child.
  • Know the signs of depression, and note the duration, frequency and severity of troubling behavior.
  • If your child is struggling with any combination of the signs of depression for more than two weeks in different settings (e.g., at home, at school, on the playground), consult a mental health professional or pediatrician.
  • Discuss all available treatment options with your child’s doctor, and carefully weigh all the risks and benefits associated with each treatment. A comprehensive treatment plan may include psychotherapy, ongoing evaluation and, in some cases, medication. You and your child, if possible, should fully participate in the development of a treatment plan.
  • Talk to other families in your community or find a family network organization to help you better understand how depression can affect your child and your entire family.
  • Know that treatment works and that your child will get better.

mpower - Mental Health America's web site especially for teens and young adults

For More Information:

For help finding treatment, support groups, medication information, help paying for your medications, your local Mental Health America affiliate, and other mental health-related services in your community, please contact us.

If you or someone you know is in crisis now, seek help immediately. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24 hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance.

Page last updated: 3/6/2009

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