Identifying the signs of depression in kids

Identifying the signs of depression in kids

There is a growing worldwide concern about depression and suicide among our youngest population, but the signs of depression in children can be different than those in teenagers and adults.

Joan Luby, MD says that depression can arise as early as age three.

Pandemic isolation, struggling with virtual schooling, and family-related stress all contributed to a rise in mental health concerns for children. According to mental health America, last year, more than 2.3 million kids suffered from severe depression.

“The thing that we have to look for are age-adjusted manifestation of those symptoms,” Luby, explained.

Symptoms of depression in youth include being persistently sad or irritable over several weeks, sleep disturbances, fatigue, no longer enjoying the things they use to enjoy, not being motivated to engage in activity, expressing negativity toward themselves or others, and discussing thoughts of death. The key to helping children fight off depression.

Luby recommends parents to be very aware of their child’s emotional state.

If you notice these signs in your child, get help immediately. Also, spend more time outside, take walks, play outdoor games, and get them involved in social activities.

Depression may be more treatable early in life during a time of rapid brain development and developmental change. Early treatment can help to avoid relapses, personality and medical disorders later in life.

Warning signs to look out for in your child:

  • Isolation or refusal to attend school;
  • Changes in eating habits;
  • Withdrawal from peers or social activities;
  • Withdrawal from extracurricular activities at school or in the community; and/or
  • Reports of bullying, harassment, or intimidation in school, the community, or on social media.
Ways to replace screen time for children

Ways to replace screen time for children

Today, many parents are struggling to curtail screen time and find alternate ways to engage their children. For many, the struggle is being able to coax their children to disengage from the screen.

Now that online schooling has brought screens into the home, the magnet of online games and recreation seems to be consuming the hours of most children.

Ironically, for parents the screen is an easy tool at their disposal that offers them moments of respite, but the addiction to screens by young children is not what most had bargained for. Most parents and caretakers are aware that children shouldn’t be given easy access to technology at such a young age. Yet, we are all guilty of doing so because we need to multitask, we are tired, and because children simply love it. It’s surprising to see that two-year-olds today can operate a smartphone probably better than I can.

Yet, despite how easy it might be to hand that gadget to your child, I’ll state the obvious – screen time for children isn’t right at all. Research from the Indian Academy of Pediatrics points out that children below the age of two years should not be exposed to any type of screen with the exception of occasional video calls with relatives. For children between the age of two and five years, screen time should not exceed one hour, though the lesser, the better. For ages higher than five, screen time should never come at the cost of any other activity crucial for development such as physical activity, sleep, school work, eating etc.

Further, increased time on phones and tablets also means less time spent with others. This comes at the cost of slowing down and hindering the development of language skills, social and interpersonal skills that develop the much needed ability to feel compassion and empathy.

Sadly, it can also cause isolation at a young age, leading to issues like increased anxiety and even depression in the future.

Hence, despite the fact that we might be proud of our child quickly grasping their command over technology or learning rhymes through YouTube, screen time for kids, beyond school, must be minimised and discouraged.

Prior to the technological age, children enjoyed childhood in the true sense of the word. A childhood that had them use their imagination to create games, find friends to play with and be in touch with the outdoors – all tools necessary to sculpt children into wholesome, confident and social beings with a real sense of their world.

While we have identified the problem, I would like to focus on some possible alternatives to engage our children.

Start with […]

Suicide attempts by children have spiked during the pandemic, especially among girls

Suicide attempts by children have spiked during the pandemic, especially among girls

Five years ago, if a child younger than 13 arrived at Maine Medical Center for treatment following a suicide attempt, it was rare and notable.

It’s no longer rare.

If your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger, dial 911.

For immediate assistance during a mental health crisis, call or text the Maine 24-Hour Crisis Hotline at 888-568-1112.

For any other support or referrals, call the NAMI Maine Help Line at 800-464-5767 or email helpline@namimaine.org.

National resources are also available. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also contact the National Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Warning signs of teen suicide might include:

  • Talking about suicide, including making statements like “I’m going to kill myself” or “I won’t be a problem for you much longer”
  • Withdrawing from social contact
  • Having mood swings
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Feeling trapped, hopeless or helpless about a situation
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things
  • Giving away belongings when there is no other logical explanation for why this is being done
  • Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated when experiencing some warning signs listed above

What to do if you suspect your teen is suicidal:

If you suspect your teen might be thinking about suicide, talk to them immediately. Don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide.” Talking about suicide won’t plant ideas in their head.

Ask your teen about their feelings and listen. Don’t dismiss their problems.

Seek medical help for your teen and follow through with the treatment plan.

“We’re seeing more of them and they’re younger. We have seen as young as 7 to 9 years old, which we never saw,” said Dr. Robyn Ostrander, division director of child and adolescent psychiatry. “It’s hard to wrap your head around that a child of that age would even conceive of suicide or know what it is, but it happens.”

In Maine and across the country, the number of adolescents who attempt suicide has risen dramatically, setting off alarm bells for mental health and suicide prevention experts who say more focus needs to be placed on talking about it and providing access to mental health services.

The increase is being driven largely by girls, who experts say experience depression at higher rates than boys and may be more likely to seek help for self-inflicted injuries.

Nationwide, emergency room visits following suicide attempts by girls age 12 to 17 spiked in 2020 and the first months of 2021. The number of girls who went to the hospital after a suspected suicide attempt rose 51 percent from March 2019 to March 2021, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase among boys was 3.7 percent.