Is Your Child Depressed?
Is your teenager or younger child depressed? Perhaps they are sad, hostile, withdrawn, doing poorly in school, or have changes in eating or sleeping habits. Sound familiar?
Traditionally, if a parent is concerned about their child’s mental health, they would take the child to the doctor for a screening test for depression, anxiety, or other concerns. However, in a recent article published in Contemporary Clinic, the findings from researchers at McGill University suggest that traditional screening tools often misdiagnosed depression in kids and teens.
“There was not a single tool with even moderate evidence of sufficient accuracy to effectively identify depressed children and adolescents without also incorrectly picking up many non-depressed children and adolescents,” said lead author Michelle Roseman, PhD.
“Our study shows that if depression screening were carried out using existing screening tools, many nondepressed children and adolescents would be mistakenly identified as depressed,” stated senior author Brett Thombs, PhD, in a press release. “This could lead to the unnecessary prescription of potentially harmful psychiatric medications and negative messages about the mental health of some children who do not have mental health disorders.”
Psychotherapy often is tried as an initial treatment for mild depression. Psychotherapy may help to determine the severity and persistence of the depression and whether antidepressant medications may be warranted. Types of psychotherapies include “cognitive behavioral therapy,” which helps people learn new ways of thinking and behaving, and “interpersonal therapy,” which helps people understand and work through troubled personal relationships.
What’s a parent to do? Perhaps we need to look at other factors and determine potential causes of the change in behavior. Any mental health problem begins when physical or emotional stress triggers chemical changes in the brain. Coping skills are methods a person uses to deal with stressful situations. Coping skills can be good or bad, so it’s important to train youth on how to positively cope for good mental health, so that the negative coping skills don’t become a way of life on into adulthood.
Positive life-long coping skills include:
Meditation and relaxation – practicing deep breathing techniques can help reduce stress and induce relaxation.
Physical activity – getting the heart rate up causes the body to release endorphins which provides some stress relief.
Reading – picking up a good book to escape reality for awhile is a positive way to de-stress and take their mind off of what is stressing them out.
Friendship – Having friends who listen and support through the good and the bad times is essential.
Laugh – Adding humor to a stressful situation can help lighten the mood.
Hobbies – Listening to music, working in the garden, and coloring in a coloring book (even for adults) or drawing are great ways to reduce stress in kids.
Spirituality – Recent studies have found that people who believe in a higher power and pray have better mental health than those who do not.
Pets – Taking care of a pet brings a calming influence in people and can help distract the mind from stressful thoughts.
Volunteer – being involved in the community is a good way to take the mind off of a person’s own problems and help someone who may have bigger problems to deal with.
Sleep – Everyone needs a good night’s sleep to give the body the chance to rest and repair after a stressful day. However, sleeping too much without the other activities can be a negative.
Eating well – Healthy nutrition will not only improve physical health, but it plays a huge role in mental health, too.
There is direct correlation between kids who are hungry with poor performance in school. Grades suffer and behavior problems are evident and these kids are often diagnosed with mental conditions that are not really the issue.
If you have tried these positive coping skills and the signs of depression are consistent, seek the help of a therapist who can help diagnose or provide other methods of treatment. If medication is needed, it’s important to continue working with your doctor and therapist for signs of suicide. Many antidepressants are black-labeled, meaning they have a suicide risk-factor. It’s also important to immediately stop taking prescription medications without consulting your doctor, as this may also produce negative side-effects.