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Depression in children: The signs can be different, so know what to watch for

Pediatric emergency room visits for mental health reasons have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. The signs of depression can be hard to spot in kids, but there are ways to make sure your child isn't struggling with depression alone.
Pediatric emergency room visits for mental health reasons have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. The signs of depression can be hard to spot in kids, but there are ways to make sure your child isn't struggling with depression alone.

During COVID, parents have carried heavy burdens of stress and responsibility. Worrying about themselves but also watching their children struggle. There is a growing worldwide concern about depression and suicide among our youngest population.

But the signs of depression in children can be different than those in teenagers and adults.

Dr. Joan Luby says that “depression can rise as early as age 3.”

Pandemic isolation, struggling with virtual schooling, and family-related stress all contributed to a rise in mental health concerns for children. According to Mental Health America, last year over 2.3 million kids suffered with severe depression.

“The thing that we have to look for are age-adjusted manifestation of those symptoms,” Luby said.

Symptoms of depression in youth include being persistently sad or irritable over several weeks, sleep disturbances, fatigue, no longer enjoying the things they use to enjoy, not being motivated to engage in activity, expressing negativity toward themselves or others, and discussing thoughts of death.

The key to helping children fight off depression? Luby recommends “parents to be very aware of their child’s emotional state.”

If you notice these signs in your child, get help immediately.

Also, spend more time outside, take walks, play outdoor games and get them involved in social activities.

Depression may be more treatable early in life during a time of rapid brain development and developmental change. Early treatment can help to avoid relapses, personality and medical disorders later in life.