It’s normal to feel sad, but depression is a persistent lowering of mood

By Karlie Carroll, Shire Christian School Psychologist

It is normal to feel down or sad at times during your life. Even though people use the term “depression” to sometimes describe feelings of sadness, depression as a mental health issue is more than this.

Unlike a low mood or a sad time, depression is the name for a group of illnesses, which affects the way someone feels and is characterised by a persistent lowering of mood.

Approximately 4 in every 100 adolescents get seriously depressed each year.

Sometimes depression in children appears similar to the adult illness, but more often how it “looks” is determined by a child’s level of development.

Therefore in children and adolescents depression may be shown as:

  • a lack of energy,
  • changes in sleeping and eating patterns,
  • prolonged sadness,
  • crying a lot,
  • high use of alcohol or other drugs,
  • losing one’s temper,
  • withdrawing from the group,
  • thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts,
  • headaches or stomach aches that persist,
  • irritability,
  • restlessness,
  • problems concentrating or making a decision,
  • feeling empty, or
  • feeling anxious.

If you are concerned, have your child or adolescent assessed by a doctor and seek counselling if recommended.

Practical ways to help children and adolescents with depression

  • Encourage physical activity or exercise.
  • Offer and have your child involved in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Break up large projects into smaller tasks.
  • Spend time with your child, have them spend time with their friends.
  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience and encouragement.
  • Listen carefully, don’t discount.
  • Point out realities, offer hope and encourage positive thinking ... CAREFULLY!
  • Never ignore comments about suicide.

In any and all of these issues it is comforting to remember that we have an assured and certain hope in our great God.

We have been created holistically, with all of our emotions but living this side of heaven means we can at times get out of sorts and overwhelmed in them. In these times and situations we need to depend on God in His sovereignty and also be wise in seeking guidance and professional help when needed.