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IDENTIFYING AND COMBATING DEPRESSION IN CHILDREN
Depression is a mental health problem that affects individuals of all ages – young children, teenagers, adults as well as the elderly. While there are various factors that could lead to depression, it is important for parents to realise that children are most vulnerable to depression, as they are not able to express their emotions well. What’s more pressing, is that parents should also break the stigma that our children are too young to possibly succumb to depression.
Let’s first take a look at what are some of the possible causes that may lead to depression:
- Stress or Trauma: When a child experiences drastic change in circumstances such as moving to a new place or divorce. Traumatic events such as abuse and assault are also some of the common factors that lead to depression.
- Environment: Stressful, chaotic or unstable home environment and bullying would also trigger the child’s emotions to be unstable as they are in constant stress or fear.
- Family History: Children with family members who experience mental health issues such as depression are at greater risk of falling into depression.
- Brain Chemistry: Imbalances in certain neurotransmitters and hormones may affect how the brain processes emotions and mood which could lead to depression.
Depression is a complex issue which your child may or may not display obvious symptoms, especially when your child has yet to fully develop the ability to manage his or her emotions to express themselves. As such, it is important for us as parents to be mindful to observe gestures or possible symptoms such as:
- Continuous feeling of sadness and hopelessness
- Feeling of fatigue and lack of energy
- Lack of appetite and significant weight loss
- Difficulty in concentrating and making decisions
- Negative thoughts / remarks (i.e., remarks on suicide, injuring oneself, etc)
As parents, let us ensure that we pay close attention to our child’s surroundings and closely observe any changes in their personality and behaviour. Below are some proactive steps that parents can consider:
- Educate: Talk to your child about mental health issues and depression. Help them be aware of such occurrence and that they can reach out to you should they feel down.
- Make Time: The lack of parental care and support may often lead to a child feeling lost and unloved, which could result to depression. Make time for your child and ensure that you give him or her your 100% attention during those times.
- Good Exposure: Discuss with your child to understand their interests and consider enrolling them for activities that would allow them to build a healthy circle of friends and also participate in healthy activities such as swimming, music lessons, etc.
- Foster Resilience: Encourage your child to develop the ability to solve problems, manage their emotions and develop resilience that will help them cope with challenges and disappointments.
- Seek Help: If you notice is showing some signs of mental health, reach out and seek professional help.
In a nutshell, depression can happen to any of us. As parents, let us strengthen the bond with our children and practice open communications with them. Assure them that you are there for them through successes, failures and challenges and that they are not alone.