Children generally aren’t afraid to let you know how they are feeling, what they like or dislike, or what their dreams and fears are. Sorting out facts from imagination can be a challenge, especially with kids through early elementary-school age, but it’s important to listen carefully.
I know someone who, around second grade, began to suffer terrible nightmares, gained significant weight, became extremely sensitive to teasing and rejection, and frequently missed school due to illness.
His parents tried to get him help, but only time managed to alleviate those troubles.
Today, a good medical professional would consider examining such a child for depression.
When you bring up mental illness, people react differently than they would if the topic was cancer. Some people believe it’s not an illness at all, but rather a character flaw. Others are uncomfortable discussing it at all.
Thanks to increasing coverage about this problem in the media, however, more people seem to understand that mental illnesses deserve the same attention and care as any other illness.
According to WebMD.com, about 2.5 percent of children suffer from depression. When compared with some sources, that number appears to be low.
For those younger than 10, depression is much more common among boys, but by age 16, girls outnumber boys.
A partial list of signs to look for includes irritability or anger, continuous feelings of sadness or hopelessness, physical complaints such as stomachaches or headaches which do not respond to treatment, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, social withdrawal, fatigue, and vocal outbursts or crying.
This is by no means a complete list of symptoms, so be sure to check with your physician if anything concerns you about your child’s behavior.
Couple any of these symptoms with a family history of depression, or a recent traumatic life event, and the case can be compelling.
Treatment is available for children, but be an advocate for your child. Do your research before you agree to a treatment regimen.
Not every medical professional knows everything there is to know. If you have doubts, get a second opinion.
The first step is usually counseling. If that fails to help, medication may be prescribed.
The important thing is to follow through with treatment once it begins. Talk it over with your doctor before you make any changes.
Childhood is a challenge even without a mental illness. So, as parents, we must be alert to help when children can’t help themselves.
Dreams can be dashed if a child has no ability to believe in himself. Ambition struggles to coexist with hopelessness. Telling an 8-year-old to buck up doesn’t always cut it.
The child I mentioned earlier might have realized that he enjoyed writing much earlier in life if he’d had the necessary treatment to deal with his troubles.
If your child is struggling, do all you can to help.