Understanding Childhood Depression

More Than Just Feeling “Down”

Everyone feels down now and then, but even with serious setbacks, we can usually bounce back within a reasonable period of time. Clinical or major depression is more than the blues; it is more than normal, everyday ups and downs. It is a profound sense of emptiness, hopelessness, loss or despair that seems never ending. When that “down” mood, combined with other symptoms, lasts for more than a couple of weeks, it can begin to affect all areas of our life and interfere with our ability to function. Clinical depression is a serious health problem that impacts not only the person with the disorder, but those around them, and can even become deadly.

Of course, depression is not the only emotional disorder that can make life difficult for young people. Anxiety disorders are common, as are attention deficit/ hyperactivity (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and various conduct disorders. Red Flags focuses on the symptoms of depression because it is easily understood, and its symptoms frequently overlap with other common disorders. Actual diagnosis can only be done by a trained professional. The goal of Red Flags is to heighten attention to those symptoms that can indicate a need to see a professional and to encourage early intervention.

Treating Mental Illness

Mental disorders are real illnesses, just like diabetes or other physical ailments. Having a mental illness does not mean a person is weak, a failure, or is not really trying. It means he or she needs more than can be done by the individual alone. Mental health treatment works; most people are helped. Treatment can reduce the symptoms of the mental disorder, improve relationships, strengthen coping skills and promote behaviors that make a person’s life better.

Untreated mental disorders in young people can result in damage to self-esteem, poor school performance, problems with relationships, and even suicide.

When we understand that depression and other mental illnesses are common neurological disorders, and occur on a continuum from mild to severe, it is easy to see why we would want to get help early. There is no need to wait for a crisis. The sooner they get the help they need, the sooner they can feel better.

What uninformed people might say or think about seeking treatment is not a good reason to refrain from taking advantage of the various resources available to your child. You may even be surprised by the support you receive from your friends and your child’s friends.

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Using videos for students and low cost materials for teachers and parents, Red Flags offers schools a comprehensive, affordable, common sense approach to basic mental health education.
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