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Depression in children and young people

Feeling sad or low is a normal reaction in both children and adults to experiences that are stressful or upsetting. But when these feelings continue for a long time and interfere with your whole life, it can become depression. This is an illness which is less common in children under 12 years old but increases after that, with the NHS reporting almost one in four teenagers experience symptoms of depression before they are 19 years old.

Signs to look out for

Although the following signs don't necessarily mean that your child is depressed, if they are you may notice that they:

  • Become moody and irritable, easily upset or tearful.
  • Avoid friends, family and regular activities.
  • Are self-critical and hate themselves.
  • Seem unhappy, miserable and lonely a lot of the time.
  • Talk about feeling hopeless and wanting to die.
  • Find it difficult to concentrate.
  • Stop looking after their personal appearance.
  • Change their sleep pattern, sleep too little or too much.
  • Are tired and have no energy.
  • Lose or increase their appetite.
  • Suffer from frequent minor health problems, such as headaches or stomach aches.
  • Say that they are ugly, guilty and have done terrible things.
  • Don't enjoy things anymore.

What you can do to help

It can be very hard for your child to put their feelings into words, but it is important that they let someone know how they are feeling.

  • Encourage them to talk to someone they can trust, and who they feel understands.
  • Help them to keep as active and occupied as possible and allow time for fun and leisure activities.

Sometimes you'll need outside help

If there seems to be no improvement in your child's mood or it is causing serious difficulties, it's important to seek treatment. Your family doctor will be able to advise you about what help is available and may arrange a referral to Surrey Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). CAMHS will carry out a careful assessment and talk to you about what is the right treatment.

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