Seeing your child suffer in any way is a harrowing experience for any parent. Mental illness in children can be particularly draining due to the mystery surrounding it, and the issue of diagnosis at such a tender age. Depression and Your Child gives parents and caregivers a uniquely textured understanding of pediatric depression, its causes, its symptoms, and its treatments. Serani weaves her own personal experiences of being a depressed child along with her clinical experiences as a psychologist treating depressed children.
Current research, treatments and trends are presented in easy to understand language and tough subjects like self-harm, suicide and recovery plans are addressed with supportive direction. Parents will learn tips on how to discipline a depressed child, what to expect from traditional treatments like psychotherapy and medication, how to use holistic methods to address depression, how to avoid caregiver burnout, and how to move through the trauma of diagnosis and plan for the future. Real life cases highlight the issues addressed in each chapter and resources and a glossary help to further understanding for those seeking additional information. Parents and caregivers are sure to find here a reassuring approach to childhood depression that highlights the needs of the child even while it emphasizes the need for caregivers to care for themselves and other family members as well.
Teens report of depressed feelings is much higher than most people would imagine and identifying these at risk youth is crucial. Take a look at California rating scale for an example of how widespread this issue is.
Sunday March 3rd my guest will be Dr Deborah Serani to discuss her book Depression and your Child A Guide For Parents And Caregivers. In a three part series we will explore the difference in presentations in children and teens from those in adults and the approaches and strategies to help your child overcome this devastating illness.
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEWS BY CLICKING ON THE BLOG TALK RADIO BOXES BELOW
DEPRESSION AND YOUR CHILD
How young can a child be diagnosed with depression?
How can a parent know if it is a passing phase or something more serious?
What does depression look like in a child? Does depression in children differ from adults?
How to “act” and not “react” when your child is depressed.
March 9th 9pmE
10 MYTHS ABOUT CHILD DEPRESSION
1. Myth: Babies and children cannot be diagnosed with depression.
False. Babies and children can be diagnosed with a mood disorder. Called Pediatric Depression, this major health concern reveals that 4% of preschool aged children, 5% of school-aged children and 11% percent of adolescents meet the criteria for major depression.
2. Myth: My pediatrician says my child’s moodiness it just a phase – and not to worry.
False. General practitioners and pediatricians, while trained in aspects of mental illness, are not specialists. If you’re on the receiving end of a don’t-worry-it’s-just-a-stage response from your family physician, seek a second opinion from a mental health specialist.
3. Myth: Good parents can always detect if their child is depressed.
False. Most children who suffer with depression keep their thoughts and feelings masked. The only way for parents to understand depression is to be aware of the age specific behaviors and symptoms. Depression is not a result of bad parenting.
4. Myth: Pediatric Depression will go away on its own.
False: A serious mental illness cannot be willed away or brushed aside with a change in attitude. Ignoring the problem doesn’t give it the slip either. Depression is serious, but treatable illness, with a success rates of upwards of 80% for children who receive intervention.
5. Myth: Talking about depression gives kids ideas and makes things worse.
False. Talking about depression with your child actually helps to reduce symptoms. Support and encouragement through open communication are significantly meaningful. This lets your child know he’s not alone, is loved and cared for.
6. Myth: The risk of suicide for children is greatly exaggerated.
False. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in adolescents ages 15 to 24, and is the 6th leading cause of death in children ages 5 to14. Suicide is significantly linked to depression, so early diagnosis and treatment of pediatric depression are extremely important.
7. Myth: Antidepressants will change your child’s personality.
False. Antidepressants normalize the ranges of moods in children who have a mood disorder – and will not change your child’s personality what-so-ever.
8. Myth: Once a child starts taking antidepressants, he is on it for the rest of his life.
False. The majority of children who take antidepressant medication will stop their prescription in a careful and modified manner when recovery from depression occurs. This clinical state of recovery takes about a year or so to achieve.
9. Myth: When a depressed child refuses help, there’s nothing parents can do.
False. If your child refuses to go to talk therapy or take medication, there are things you can do. You can seek therapy with a trained mental health specialist to learn how to help your child in spite of the fact that he won’t attend sessions. In a crisis situation, you can drive your child to the nearest hospital emergency room, or contact family, friends or the local police for assistance in getting him there.
10. Myth: Nowadays, stigma for children and teens living with depression has declined.
False. Though evidence-based research has shown depression is a real illness, stigma is on the rise instead of on the decline. There is so much shame regarding mental illness that statistics show only 1 in 5 actually seeks treatment. Studies have shown that knowledge of depression appears insufficient to dispel stigma. What does reduce stigma? Learning about positive and inspiring stories of people living successfully with depression.
March 16 9pmE
7 THINGS A CHILD WITH DEPRESSION SHOULD KNOW
1) Understanding the texture of feelings: Many children in this era of super technology aren’t skilled at reading facial cues, understanding eye contact and complex emotions. Studies show that children with depression struggle further, however, having difficulty differentiating the differences between different kinds of emotions. Sad is different than lonely. Lonely is different disappointed. Often, depressed children need help understanding the textures of emotions. When they become confident identifying their feelings, they can set into motion the best plan of action to improve their mood.
2) How to spot negative thinking: I like to teach children about the quality of their thoughts by using a thumbs up and thumbs down technique. Is what you’re thinking a good thought….one that would get a thumbs up from other people? I studied for my test. But if I get a bad grade, it’s okay because I know I tried my best. Or is it a hurtful or negative? One that really is untrue and realistic. It doesn’t matter if I studied. I’m stupid and I’ll fail the test anyway. Teaching children to catch the negative talk helps them approach every issue in life from a place of positivity.
3) How to use positive self-care: Learning to live with depression requires a child to be clever and ever-ready to use soothing ways to address sad moods. I find reminding children to use their 5 senses – sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell – really helps. Things like cozying up to a stuffed animal, hugging loved ones, snacking on healthy, flavorful foods, taking in the fresh air, listening to upbeat music and making time to see colors, nature and sunshine. All of these raise dopamine and serotonin levels improving mood, and teach children how to self-soothe.
4) Why exercise is important: The fatigue that comes with depression leaves kids tired and irritable. Physical complaints like aches and pains also knock them out for the count too. When we take the time to teach children about the importance of physical exercise, it will become part of a lifelong skill-set. Be it playing tag with friends or catch with the dog, swimming or riding a bike, kick-boxing or yoga, or a simple walk, the shift in neurochemistry boosts mood.
5) When too much of something isn’t good. It’s also vital for kids to learn how too much of anything can upset the apple cart. For example, the fatigue of depression can leave children tired, with many prone to sleeping all day. Instead, children should learn that a nap is better than a full-on sleepfest. Some depressed children eat in excess, while others lose their appetite altogether. Both of these extremes are unhealthy. Too much crying, too much avoidance or too much irritability raises the stress hormone cortisol, which heightens anxiety and alertness. When we teach children to monitor their experiences with healthy limits, we give them the ability to balance and self-manage their well-being. Daily stickers for young ones and journaling for the older set can teach children how to better monitor symptoms and moods.
6) Know the difference between a bad day and a sad mood: When depressed kids learn how to measure the moment, they learn that a sad mood doesn’t have to ruin a day. However, if they can’t shake off the sad mood – and the rest of the day feels like an epic fail, it’s great for kids to know that a bad day doesn’t equal a bad life. Tomorrow is a new day. One to be measured for its own value.
7) How to let others know you need help. When children are depressed, they often don’t know how to reach out for support. Their fatigue and irritability dulls problem solving skills. Others might not feel they deserve help or would rather isolate themselves from family or friends. Depressed children need to know that everyone needs help now and then – and that no one can …or should… handle everything alone. I like to teach children to communicate their needs verbally and non-verbally. With words, through crying, by touch – it’s okay to show you others that you’re having a tough time.
Serani, D. (2013). Depression and Your Child: A Guidebook for Parents and Caregivers. Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield.