Depression in Young People

Studies have shown that about 4% of children or young people aged 5-16 are depressed or anxious at any one time.

80,000 children in the UK have severe depression, which means many more will have mild or moderate depression (all of which should have treatment and support).

I would suggest your child is assessed by a psychiatrist if you are concerned about the below symptoms (they do not have to have them all in combination):

  • Low mood which has been fairly consistent for at least 2 weeks
  • Poor sleep, waking early by 2 hours or more, struggling to get to sleep or waking a lot in the night.
  • Significant changes in their appetite which last for a couple of weeks
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of energy or motivation
  • Isolating themselves from family and friends
  • Not appearing to enjoy themselves like they used to
  • Giving up on hobbies and interests
  • Self harming
  • Talking of life not being worth living
  • Feeling awful about themselves
  • Reduction in their self esteem
  • Guilty feelings
  • Feeling hopeless about their future
  • Being increasingly irritable
  • Being tearful
  • Decrease in their academic performance
  • Increasing anxiety
  • Panic attacks

As stated earlier there are differing severities of depression.

If someone has a mild depressive episode they have less of the above symptoms and are able to keep going with their daily life. As it develops into moderate depression, more of the symptoms develop and managing normal functioning becomes harder. By the time they reach severe depression, they have most of the symptoms and are really struggling to get on with their day.

I would suggest accessing help from a psychiatrist with any of these severities as treatment can be given to help prevent the symptoms worsening, to lead to recovery and to prevent relapse in the future.

It is also very important to access help if the young person is having episodes where their mood goes very high at times. I have seen young people who have episodes of low mood and then switch to being over excited, they talk too quickly, they may say thoughts race and they might do some reckless things. If this occurs, they need an assessment from a psychiatrist for bipolar disorder.

It is so important to get help for young people with depression or bipolar disorder as suffering with these conditions is at times like being tortured and treatment can prevent a reduction in functioning and academic attainment, prevent them from losing relationships, as well as save lives. Without treatment a small proportion of young people might go on to develop psychotic depression, where they become quite paranoid that people want to harm them, they start hearing voices and they truly believe others would be better off without them.

Depression is treatable but it takes time for medication to take effect and getting treatment sooner rather than later, may prevent the need for medication and certainly avoid considerable suffering and risk.