Depression can be found among children of any age, from preschool through young adulthood. Experts agree that the rates of depression in young have skyrocketed. A recent study among college students at Kansas State University found the percentage of depressed students doubled over a 13 year period.
The rates of depression in children are likely under reported because parents and professionals often fail to recognize the problem. Children rarely spontaneously report depression to others. Instead, they more typically remain unaware of their feelings, which manifest themselves through changes in their behavior, appetite and sleep.
This is the story:
Angeline's mom surprises her by bringing cupcakes to school on her eighth birthday. The teacher leads the class in singing "Happy Birthday", but Angeline barely smiles. After quickly devouring the two overloaded trays of cupcakes, the kids all race out to the playground for recess. Angeline trails behind.
Angeline's teacher approaches her mother, "I am concerned about Angeline. She seems quiet and less interested in her schoolwork. I often see her alone on the playground. She does not raise her hand in class like she used to, either. Is something wrong?"
Patterns of behavior in Depressed Children
When children are depressed, they lose interest in activities that they previously enjoyed. If you ask them if they are sad, they may not be able to connect their feelings with words. However, they will show various signs of depression, such as low energy, sleep problems, appetite changes, irritability and low self-esteem.
Watch children at play for subtle signs of depression. Depressed children may weave themes of death or loss into their play. All childrens play includes such themes on occasion, but dark topics show up more often in kids who are depressed. You may need to observe kids over a period of time because their moods change. They may not look as continuously depressed as adults with depression. Their moods may fluctuate throughout the day. Consult a professional if you have any doubts.