Signs of Depression

Children’s Mental Health

For parents, the key to handling mental disorders of children is to recognize the problem and seek appropriate treatment. These disorders have specific diagnostic criteria and treatments, and a complete evaluation by a mental health provider can determine whether a child needs help. Some of the mental disorders commonly seen in children are depression, ADHD, and anxiety disorder.


As many as one in ten children between ages six and twelve experience persistent feelings of sadness—the hallmark of depression. Since children may not be able to express or understand many of the core symptoms that would indicate depression in adults, parents should be aware of some key behaviors—in addition to changes in eating or sleeping patterns—that may signal depression in children:

• A sudden drop in school performance
• Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
• Outbursts of shouting, complaining, unexplained irritability, or crying
• Thoughts of death or suicide
• Expressions of fear or anxiety
• Aggression, refusal to cooperate, antisocial behavior
• Use of alcohol or other drugs
• Constant complaints of aching arms, legs, or stomach with no apparent cause

Treatment is essential for children struggling with depression so that they can be free to develop necessary academic and social skills. Treatment involves psychotherapy either alone or in combination with medication. During psychotherapy, children learn to express their feelings and to develop ways of coping with their illness. Some children also respond to antidepressant medications, but use of these medications must be closely monitored. Psychiatric medication should not be the only form of treatment, but should be part of a comprehensive program.


The American Psychiatric Association: