What is depression?
Clinical depression goes beyond sadness. It's more than having a bad day or coping with a major loss such as the death of a parent, grandparent, or even a favorite pet. It's also not a personal weakness or a character flaw. Youth suffering from clinical depression cannot simply "snap out of it."
Depression is a brain disorder (mental illness) that affects the whole person-it affects the way one feels, thinks, and acts. Early-onset depression can lead to school failure, alcohol or other drug use, and even suicide. However, it is highly treatable.
What are the signs of early-onset depression?
Do other disorders or behaviors commonly coexist with early-onset depression?
What can parents or caregivers do?
If parents or another adult in a young person's life suspect a problem with depression, they should:
If we as caregivers are not satisfied with the answers we get from a mental healthcare provider, what next?
If you have questions about, or are not satisfied with, the mental health care your child is receiving, it is important to discuss these issues with the provider. Ask for more information and seek help from other sources. You can also call the NAMI HelpLine at the toll free number, (800) 950-6264.
Where should family members or other caregivers seek help?
Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for youth with depression. Youth who exhibit symptoms of depression should be referred to, and further evaluated by, a mental health professional who specializes in treating children and teenagers.
The diagnostic evaluation may include psychological testing, laboratory tests, and consultation with other medical specialists such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist. A comprehensive treatment plan may include psychotherapy, ongoing evaluations and monitoring, or psychiatric medication. Optimally, the treatment plan is developed with the caregiver/family; and, whenever possible, the youth should be involved in the decisions.
Know the facts:
Reviewed by David G. Fassler, M.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist, Otter Creek Associates, Burlington, VT and author (with Lynn Dumas) of Help Me, I'm Sad.
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