What is depression? 

Depression is not the same as regular sadness. It is a hopelessness and despair that last longer than a few days. Depression is more common in teens than in young children.

Depression is a mental health problem. It is not shameful to have depression. It can be treated with therapy or drugs. When treated, children and teens can lead normal lives. Without treatment, depression can lead to self-harm or suicide.

Signs and symptoms of depression

Depression can be hard to detect in young children. Sometimes a child’s thoughts or actions can be signs of depression. Depression can also be well hidden in teens. If your child shows some of these signs or symptoms, you should see the child’s doctor right away:

  • frequent sadness without a reason
  • easily upset
  • frequent crying
  • irritability or problems paying attention
  • low self-esteem
  • extreme sensitivity to criticism or failure
  • increased anger
  • loss of pleasure in favourite activities
  • constant low energy or fatigue
  • social isolation
  • poor communication
  • extreme guilt
  • severe weight gain or weight loss, change in appetite
  • change in sleep habits
  • frequent headaches and stomach aches
  • absences from school or drop in school performance
  • poor concentration
  • threats or attempts to run away from home
  • drug or alcohol abuse
  • talk or thoughts of suicide


There are many reasons why children and youth suffer from depression. Genetics, family or life stress, and child factors can all add to the onset of depression.

Risk factors

The biggest risk factor for early depression is having at least one depressed parent. Other risk factors include a family history of bipolar disorder or recurrent depression.

Studies have shown that children with attention problems, chronic illness, or anxiety disorders are more likely to become depressed. Children who have been physically or sexually abused are at a higher risk for mental health problems. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens also have a higher risk for mental illness.


If untreated, depression can lead to suicide. Depressed teens are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They may also engage in risky behaviour like unsafe sex.

What you can do to help your child with depression

Spend time with your child. Listen to him and try to understand his concerns. Ask them about his feelings or concerns. Help him maintain a healthy diet, a good sleep routine, and regular physical activity. Encourage him to take part in activities that he enjoys. If your child shows signs of depression, or you suspect your child may have high levels of stress, see your child’s doctor.

If your child has suicidal thoughts or harms himself, seek medical attention right away.

What your child’s doctor can do

Treatment of depression usually involves therapy, drugs, or both.


Your doctor may refer your child to a therapist. The type of therapy will depend on your child’s age, maturity, and how severe the depression is. Individual or family therapy may be recommended.

Older children may respond better to cognitive behavioural therapy. This proven therapy helps the patient change faulty ways of thinking, reducing symptoms of depression.

Preschool children may benefit from forms of parent-child therapy that help with their emotional growth.


Sometimes medicine combined with therapy, can be the best way to deal with depression. The most common drugs used are called SSRIs. They may take a few weeks to work. At the beginning, they may briefly increase symptoms and thoughts of suicide. It is important to monitor your child when first prescribed these drugs.

Depressed preschoolers are not usually treated with drugs because of safety concerns. Behaviour-based therapy is the usual treatment for very young children.

Key points

  • Children of all ages may suffer from depression.
  • Depression is different than regular sadness. It is a sense of despair, lack of self-worth, and guilt that lasts longer than a few days.
  • There should be no shame about depression. It is a mental health problem, not a choice.
  • Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide in teens and adults.
  • Treatment usually involves therapy, drugs, or both.


Compliments of: Sheila Jacobson, MBBCh, FRCPC, www.aboutkidshealth.ca


Jennifer McCallum

Thank you so much for stopping by this page to get to know a bit more about me and why I started Parent Guide Inc. My business story started a way back in 2001... …after the birth of my first daughter, I realized that an "all-in-one" resource guide for parents was needed, and fast! I designed the New Parent Resource Guide to fill a gap in the community for busy parents like myself. The New Parent Resource Guide offers an A-Z of key contacts for parents, caregivers, service providers, and health care professionals.  Working with key businesses and organizations in the community, we have also compiled much-needed articles, tips, and charts to answer all your parenting questions. The latest addition to our family is the School Age Resource Guide to serve parents of children, 3 to 18 years!  This guide answers questions about: nutrition, bullying, curriculum, building self-esteem, and much more, as well as offering a full directory of local and national resources. The Parentguide.ca website offers an “all-in-one” spot for parents to connect, add their own blog, and find needed resources in their community.  It is a site that educates and entertains and if you can't find somthing just ASK me. I am here to serve YOU!  My hope is that you connect with our members, find comfort in their words, and share your own story. My goal is to see what I can do to help make life a bit easier for you.   You are why I do what I do! I can’t wait to get to know you!  Comment below to tell me about yourself – then start blogging so we can find out what makes you get up in the morning!  Check out my blog too and I am sure you will be surprised what gets me out of bed each day!!! Jennifer -  Mom and Publisher

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