Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney
Lots of parents become concerned at various times that their child is depressed. Depression in kids, as it is in adults, has a particular meaning. And before one applies a label of depression, it’s really important to work out whether your child is merely sad or unhappy, or has developed something that would cause depression. Having thought through the situation that the child is in, and if you do become concerned that they may be depressed, it’s important to look at what could be triggering it.
Are there problems at school? Are there problems at home? Are there healthcare issues? Has their behaviour really changed significantly? Trying to find a story as to what is going on with your child and that may suggest that they actually are depressed. Does your child actually say that they feel sad?
I doubt they’ll use the term depressed, but to build a picture that suggests they may be depressed. The other piece of information that’s really important is not just how they are at home, but how they are at school. Your child’s teachers may have noticed something that suggests they’re in some way withdrawn, or they’re more irritable, or they’re just not their usual self.
With all the information that you may have received from your own observation, from the school, and if you genuinely are concerned that your child is depressed, then the next step is what do you do?
Well, I would recommend in the first instance that you talk to your family doctor, and from there, there are a number of services that are available, either psychologist, or a number of child and adolescent mental health teams that will be able to assess your child and come to a view as to whether they are depressed, and then what are the various causes that could be contributing to that, and what are the treatment options that are available.