Depression is common in kids who learn and think differently. Maybe you’ve been gradually noticing signs of depression in your child. Or maybe there’s been a sudden change in behavior that's causing you to worry. Either way, there are things you can do right now to help your child.
Here are five steps to take if you think your child is depressed.
1. Talk with your child.
Try to find out what’s happening. Is your child upset over something specific that happened? Kids often have trouble expressing what’s going on or don’t know why they’re feeling sad or angry. Make sure your child knows you’re ready to help and that you’ll get through this together.
Talk to your child about how common depression is and how it doesn’t mean someone is “weak.” People can lead a healthy life when their depression is properly treated.
2. Call your child’s health care provider.
Your pediatrician knows what depression looks like in kids. (The American Academy of Pediatrics says all kids 12 and older should be screened for depression.) Your child’s health care provider can also help you find a mental health professional who specializes in helping kids and teens, if needed.
3. Reach out to your child’s school.
Talk to your child’s teacher about emotional difficulties. The school nurse or guidance counselor may also be helpful. See if they’ve noticed any changes in your child’s behavior. Ask about school resources for struggling students.
4. Learn about therapy options.
Different kinds of therapies can help kids and teens with depression:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps kids recognize and change their negative beliefs or behaviors. This short-term therapy tends to involve 5 to 20 sessions.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on relationships with other people. The goal is to help kids address problems so they can have healthier relationships.
- Family therapy can be a helpful starting point for kids who say things like, “I’m not depressed—I just hate my family.” This type of therapy can help family members improve communication and resolve conflicts.
It’s very important to find a therapist your child likes and trusts. Also, keep in mind that some therapists use a combination of techniques such as a mix of CBT and IPT.
5. Consider other treatments.
Depending on your child’s symptoms, your doctor or mental health professional may suggest considering medication. Antidepressants are often used to help treat kids with moderate to severe depression. For kids with severe depression, a combination of psychotherapy and medication usually works better than either alone.
And, lastly, a word about suicidal thoughts: Not all kids and adults with depression think about taking their own life. But if your child says anything about suicide, you need to take it seriously.
Get your child help right away. Call a hotline (800-273-8255) or text HOME to 741741. Crisis counselors can be reached at both of these resources 24 hours a day.
Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.
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The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.