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Robbie Woliver


Depressing news about childhood and adolescent depression

Two-thirds of kids with mental health problems don't receive help.

You might have read the recent New York Times article about depression in preschoolers or the new Canadian study linking teens and smoking to depression. The Today Show is even tackling the topic this week. The disabling disorder is getting more pervasive with each generation. What's going on with our kids?

Depression, the most common mental-health disorder in children, is an illness that affects the child's entire physical and mental well-being. It seeps into their thoughts and affects their physical health. Depression in children is the same as in adults-helplessness, sadness, fatigue-but adults often have an easier time recognizing depression and addressing it when it affects them. It is often difficult for a child to express how he or she is experiencing the debilitating disorder.

The Eastern Maine Medical Center reports that depression affects 3 million to 6 million children in America. It is believed that many go untreated because they cannot properly articulate what they feel.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 2.5 percent of all children and 8.3 percent of all adolescents will experience some form of clinical depression. NIMH also reports that some estimates suggest as many as 1 in 11 children may experience some form of clinical depression before the age of 14. In childhood, statistics regarding depression break down evenly between boys and girls; but, in adolescence, girls by a 2-to-1 margin are reported with the disorder more often than boys. It is believed that many adolescent boys, as with adult men, do not seek help for depression.

Remember that clinical depression is different from the general terms "getting the blues" or "feeling down." It must interfere with the child's functioning in normal daily activities. Depression can be treated, and children who have it must be treated. If a depressed child does not get help, he or she will suffer throughout life, so it is important for parents to know the signs. There is one important indicator that a parent should know: if you suffer from depression, there's a good chance your child might.

Once a young person has experienced a major depression, he or she is at risk of developing another depression within the next five years, according to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Health. In addition, two-thirds of children with mental health problems do not get the help they need.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 5- to 15-year-olds. The suicide rate for 5- to 24-year-olds has nearly tripled since 1960.

Check Part 2 of Childhood Depression, "20 Signs and Symptoms of Childhood/Teen Depression," for a comprehensive list of signs and symptoms of childhood and adolescent depression.

For more information on childhood and adolescent depression and many other childhood disorders: Alphabet Kids: A Guide to Developmental, Neurobiological and Psychological Disorders for Parents and Professionals .