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Compassion key to tackling depression

A depressed child might be hard to talk to, but it is vital for caring communication to be maintained.

QUESTION:

I would like to know more about depression in children. I never heard of it 20 years ago but I understand depression is being diagnosed quite young. This is a concerning trend.

What are the signs that a child is depressed? How should parents respond?

ANSWER:

Although depression is less common in children than adolescents and adults, even very young children can suffer from it. Traumatic losses, disappointments and difficulties affect them and not all bounce back emotionally.

 If a child has several of the following signs continuing over time, help and support are needed: A sad, unhappy mood most of the time that lasts weeks or more; lack of interest or pleasure in activities they previously enjoyed;

avoiding friends; irritability; disturbed sleep over some weeks; changes in appetite; weight gain or loss; poor concentration; feeling hopeless or worthless; self-blame for troubles of family or friends; being tired most of the time; talking or

playing a lot about death; mentioning suicide; being angry or resentful a lot of the time. Anxiety sometimes accompanies depression. A child may have aches and pains that have no physical cause. Sometimes an inherited family tendency makes

a child less able to handle stress and so more likely to suffer depression. A depressed child may be hard to talk to, but it is important for caring communication to be maintained, and effort made to understand what has set off the depression.

There may be no clear cause. Initially parents can seek help from other adults who know the child well, a teacher perhaps. If symptoms persist a GP should be consulted who can make a referral to an appropriate professional,

such as a child psychologist or specialist counsellor.

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Relationships Australia (SA) appoints panels of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it.

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