1) Depression isn’t a weakness or a result of laziness. It’s real. Depression is a very real illness that affects the emotional, social, behavioral and physical health of children and adults. There are genetic and biological factors that predispose a child for depression, but life experiences also influence its development.
2) It affects babies, children and adolescents. Pediatric depression is a significant health concern. Evidence suggests that up to 1% of babies, 4% of preschool aged children, 5% of school-aged children and 11% percent of adolescents meet the criteria for major depression.
3) Depression will NOT go away on its own. 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 upwards of 80% children who receive treatment.
4) Good parents don't always detect if their child is depressed. 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.
5) A depressed child is usually not a loner. It’s important for parents to know that children often mask their depression. So a child can present as happy, social or untroubled on the outside, though internally she is struggling terribly with negative thoughts and despairing feelings.
6) If your depressed child refuses help, there are many things you can do as a parent. If your child won’t go for talk therapy or take medication, there are ways to help. You can seek therapy - separately - with a trained mental health specialist to learn how to help your child in spite of the fact that he won’t attend sessions. Make sure you reach out to your child’s school for support, and consider touching base with other places your child spends time. 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.
7) The risk of suicide for children is very high. 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 is extremely important.
8) Depressed children can lead productive lives. In fact, many high profile people, including President Abraham Lincoln, Writer J.K. Rowlings, Artist Michelangelo, Actor Harrison Ford, Choreographer Alvin Ailey, Actress Courteney Cox, Entrepreneur Richard Branson, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Rocker Bruce Springsteen and Baseballer Ken Griffey, Jr. have been very successful in their chosen professions – despite struggling with depression in their young lives.