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Helping the depressed person get treatment.

Helping the Depressed Child The first step in helping the depressed child is to recognize that the child is, in fact, depressed. This can be challenging. For one thing, it is difficult for adults to accept that young children--even infants--can suffer from depression. Childhood is supposed to be a happy, carefree time of life. Only in recent years has scientific evidence convinced most mental health specialists that childhood depression exists.

Recognizing the symptoms of childhood depression can also be difficult. While some children display the classic symptoms--sadness, anxiety, restlessness, eating, and sleeping problems--others express their depression through physical problems--various aches and pains that do not respond to treatment. Still others hide their feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness under a cover of irritability, aggression, hyperactivity, and misbehavior.

Complicating the recognition of depression are the developmental stages that children pass through on the way to adulthood. Negativism, clinginess, or rebellion may be normal and temporary expressions of a particular stage. In addition, children go through temporary depressed moods just as adults do. Careful observation of a child for several weeks may be required to determine if there is a problem. When symptoms of possible depression seem severe or continue for more than a few weeks, an evaluation by the child's pediatrician to rule out a physical illness would be a good first step. A next step, if deemed necessary, would be consultation with a mental health professional who specializes in treating children.

While parents typically assume prime responsibility for getting treatment for their depressed child, other people--relatives, teachers, friends--can play a role. In the following case, school personnel were instrumental in getting help for a child.
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Institute of Mental Health
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Author:Sargent, Marilyn
Publication:Pamphlet by: National Institute of Mental Health
Article Type:pamphlet
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Next Article:You are not alone: facts about mental health and mental illness.

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