How to Beat the Odds Against: Depression

Youth doesn't necessarily protect kids from serious conditions and diseases. Find out if your child is at risk and strive for prevention

How to Beat the Odds Against: DepressionIncreasingly, mental health experts are learning that adult depression — feelings of worthlessness and self-blame that interfere with life — originates in youth. “Most cases of major adult depression report the onset of at least one episode in adolescence,” says Dr. Marshall Korenblum, chief psychiatrist at Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, a children’s mental health facility in Toronto.

In fact, statistics show that it strikes five percent of kids before 12 and eight to 10 percent of kids after 12. Risk factors include a family history of mental illness, abuse and neglect and the death or loss of a parent at an early age. Post puberty, girls are more likely than boys to get depression — no one is certain why. If depression is caught early and treated properly in children, 70 to 80 percent of all cases will never return, says Dr. Korenblum. On the other hand, left untreated, an equal number are likely to experience recurrent bouts in adulthood.

what you can do:

  • Watch for the signs of depression in kids of any age, including changes in sleep, appetite and energy levels; concentration difficulties; withdrawal from peer relations or social and recreational activities; bouts of crying; and, in kids who are prepubescent, unexplained headaches and tummy aches.
  • Spotting the signs is not always easy, says Dr. Korenblum, as symptoms are often attributed to teenage angst or melodrama. If you notice a change in behaviour, write it down to track the duration in detail in a private journal (otherwise you might not realize the extent of the problem).
  • Visit your doctor first to rule out any physical illnesses. The first line of treatment for depression in children is talk therapy, says Dr. Korenblum. Medication is secondary.

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