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Kids and Depression

 It’s a troubling thought:  Maybe your child isn’t just moody.  Maybe your little one is actually depressed.  The US Surgeon General estimates are as many as 10-15% of youngsters in America have suffered from some form of depression and while that no longer has the stigma it once did, it is still difficult for many to imagine their child could be suffering

Before puberty, depression is evenly found between boys and girls, but after age 15, depression is twice as common in girls and women as it is men and boys.  One explanation may be that girls are more socially oriented and dependent on positive social relationships.  The loss of those social connections affects girls harder than it does boys.  Girls also tend to ruminate over events, letting negative events play over and over in their minds.

Treatment is important.  According to the Surgeon General, children who first become depressed before puberty are at risk for some form of mental disorder as adults, while kids who become depressed after puberty are at greater risk to experience another episode of depression.

Highly publicized teen suicides have put the spotlight on the problem which alert adults should be trained to recognize.  Over 90% of kids who commit suicide have had a mental disorder before their death (Schaffer & Craft, 1999).  Those could include substance abuse, mood disorders, and/or anziety disorders.  Depression is a significant risk factor, substance abuse, and even a stressful life event can precede a suicide attempt.

Stressful events for a teen might include getting into trouble at school, a run in with the law, a break up with a boyfriend or girl friend, an argument among friends, and of course, bullying.   Tragically there is some data to indicate that even news coverage about a suicide can facilitate suicide attempts in vulnerable teens.  They can see suicide as reasonable and acceptable or even heroic.  (Gould & Schaffer, 1986).

Cognitive behavioral therapy, including coping skills, is ‘probably’ effective although numerous studies to confirm these techniques have not yet been conducted.  Prescription drugs are also helpful in some cases.  The key for any concerned parent is to see qualified medical help.