I recently had the opportunity to attend training at the Third Annual Symposium on Pediatric Behavioral and Mental Health: Collaboration to Build Resilience and Strengthen Relationships that was sponsored by U of L. Discussions and presentations took place that provided information on a variety of important topics, with one focusing on Pediatric Depression. This reminded me of how important it is that we are up to date on treatment protocols for children and teens with depression and that we actively provide education about depression in pediatric populations.
First, let me call your attention the fact that depression often impacts children in a way that differs from how it affects adults. That is, depression in the younger population is more likely to include symptoms of irritability rather than a depressed mood, which is what we see in adults. Trouble focusing, sleep disturbances, loss of energy, and appetite fluctuation are all additional symptoms commonly seen in children and adolescents who are experiencing the disorder. While these symptoms are not all that specific (i.e. just because a teen has a change in appetite or is irritable, it does not mean he/she is depressed), they may be indicators that the individual needs help. Many behaviors can be misinterpreted as attitude problems, lack of motivation, or an ADHD. Accurate diagnosis will be important in terms of treatment and intervention.
Why should we care that depression is accurately diagnosed and treated? Here is why: according to recent World Health Organization data, depression is the number one cause of ongoing life problems for adolescents and suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens. Those are staggering numbers. Depression is not an uncommon disorder, and it is not something to be overlooked or brushed aside. If you or a loved one is dealing with depression, seek help. There are trained professionals available to support those who suffer from the disorder.