Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the US, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. They estimated that 7 percent or 17.3 million adults in the US had had one episode of depression, at least in the past year.
Mental Health America reported that one of the most disturbing symptoms of depression is thoughts of suicide. In their 2020 State of Mental Health in America report, the number of suicidal cases increased from 3.77 percent in 2012 to 4.29 percent in 2017.
However, childhood depression is often undetected, making it left untreated. Child and adolescent psychiatrist David Fassler, MD., said that depression episodes get collected over time, and most of the time, it gets worse than the one before it.
Risk Factors of Childhood Depression
Knowing the risk factors could help parents recognize and possibly prevent their kids from developing depression.
History of Depression in Parents
According to the co-author of "Help Me, I'm Sad: Recognizing, Treating and Preventing Childhood and Adolescent Depression (Penguin, 1998)", Dr. Fassler said that children have a 25 percent chance of having depression if either one of their parents has a history of depression. That percentage jumps up to 75 if both of their parents have a history.
Certain traumas increase the risk of childhood depression. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse contribute to that. Frequent moves, the divorce of parents, and the death of someone close to the child could all increase the risks of a child developing depression.
Parents in a War Zone
Dr. Fassler said that two million children had been affected by the deployments related to Iraq and Afghanistan. And these children have higher chances of developing the illness.
Children get a sense of loss if any of their parents get incarcerated. In most cases, children would be afraid to talk about their situation.
Having Chronic Illness
Depression is said to be one of the most common complications of chronic illnesses, and about a third of people with a severe medical condition manifest symptoms of depression.
Sudden and unexpected changes such as immigration cause stress to children, thereby upping their chances of being a candidate to the illness.
How to Protect Kids From Depression
Fassler said that there are things that parents can do to help enhance resilience in their kids.
Open and Honest Communication
Encourage your child to open up things that bother him and let him share them with you.
Build a Strong Relationship with Caring Adults
Let your child get to know relatives, teachers, and community members who give support.
Support Self Esteem
Help your kids develop their skills that can help build their self-esteem.
Establish Stability and Predictability
Avoid sudden changes in schedule and plans. Do your best to make changes with minimal impact on your children.
Let Them Be Alive
Let your kids deal with frustrations and disappointments in life and let them know that it is part of growing up.
Focus on the good side to encourage your kids to do better.
Seek Help Immediately
Prevention is always better than cure. If you think your child is at risk, consider therapy and support groups to help prevent your child from developing depression.
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