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The mental challenge of depression is crosscutting in affecting persons of all age levels, races, nationality, ethnicity, cultures and regions of the world. In as much as it affects adults even so it does afflict adolescents and young children alike. Childhood depression is mostly triggered by the prevailing psychosocial environment within the child’s vicinity. As such, the resultant pressure issuing from the immediate psychosocial environment may either obstruct or trigger the child’s mental wellbeing.
It follows therefore that childhood depression can not only be considered to be the state of exhibiting prolonged, persistent and unpredictable cycles of an irritable and sad mood but also the state of minimal appetite on all pleasant undertakings. The afore mentioned afflictions are coupled with a broad range of negative outcomes which encompass reduced desire for food, sporadic sleep patterns, reduction of mental concentration, minimal level of performance in childhood development activities, and a lowered self – esteem.
Therefore, childhood depression is that mental illness which inhibits and disrupts a proper functioning of reasoning, sensing, and acting faculties of a child (John, 2010, p. 1).
The affliction of children by depression involves much more than the general attitude that most of us assume in considering childhood depression as a result of the child’s disappointment experiencing a challenging encounter within the course of the day. It is distinctly unique from the usual sorrow and grief which normally befalls those families which have been bereaved, neither is it associated with character shortfalls in the child’s personality.
As sure as any other disease or illness has to be medically or therapeutically attended to, even so must childhood depression be dealt with, for a depressed child can never overcome such childhood affliction. Nonetheless, the better side of the story is that childhood depression can be curbed either through medical treatment or by psychosocial therapies (John, 2010, p. 1).
Observable Indicators of Childhood Depression
It is estimated that almost 5% of depression cases in the general populace are childhood oriented. In an interactive situation, for instance a classroom situation, a stressed child is openly indentified by anxiety, lack of concentration, minimal cooperation, reduced memory and an overall truant attendance to school.
The event of overlooking childhood depression as an illness which warrants immediate medical care is associated with widespread negative ramifications which are normally marked by school failure and dropout, substance and drug abuse and at the very worst, suicide (Thompson, 2010, p. 1).
It is therefore important that parents should be observant in noting the onset of any of the following indicators of childhood depression to raise a timely alarm to medical practitioners and aid in timely intervention, referral and treatment measures. A depressed child is thus characterized by;
- Complacency and passiveness
- Social reservation; does not interact with other children
- Withdrawal from childhood activities and isolation
- Inferiority complex; low self worth
- Truancy from school coupled with dismal performance
- Distracted concentration and reduced memory
- Maintains a rejection consciousness
- Reduced appetite and uncomfortable sleeping dispositions
- Hostile and generally irritable
- Emotional breakdown; crying and sadness
- Hopelessness coupled with despair
- Inclinations toward self destructive tendencies
- Contemplates suicide evident in verbal utterances
- General body weakness; unpredictable illnesses
Truly observable indicators of potential self-destructive depression are evident, and as such the socio-environmental influence cannot be overlooked when identifying self-destructive depression dispositions, for instance, when young ones form juvenile gang cocoons, the associated self destructive practices such as substance abuse, robbery, ingestion of toxic substances are inevitable (Favazza, 1996, p. 1).
Even at the family level, homegrown childhood depression is characterized by eating disorders, self neglect, and sexual abuse, persistent emotional strain such as mental stress, crying, hopelessness, despair and self destructive practices (Favazza, 1996, p. 1). In most cases, children who exhibit sings inclined towards depression tend to isolate themselves from the rest of societal entities and are normally afraid and suspicious of other people.
Their conduct is marked with excessive regression, withdrawal, self acclaim and self justification. They hardly acknowledge their mistakes, but rather rationalize their conducts through varied projection devices. These mental patients hold unrealistic expectations and are emotionally disoriented.
The other key feature of those children suffering from depression is corruption of the mental strength evident in lowered self-esteem or the idealistic self-perfectionism.
As an expression of withdrawal, passiveness and inferiority complex, a depressed child does not derive any joy in the activities and games he/she was once a fun of. At the very worst, childhood depression may ultimately lead to self-destructive practices which takes the form of self-injury as evident in extensive body piercing tattoos, self-poisoning and for extreme cases – suicidal attempts.
Facts about Childhood Depression
- In the classroom scenario, academically challenged children bear an overall inclination towards childhood depression (Thompson, 2010, p. 1).
- Depressed children have associated disorders which coexist as a result of depression (Thompson, 2010, p. 1).
- Childhood depression is the main contributor to the heightened cases of runaway children (Thompson, 2010, p. 1).
- Medical intervention for childhood victims is as successful as that of their adult counterparts (Thompson, 2010, p. 1).
- One’s childhood depressions are a reflection of terminal adult depressions in the individual’s life.
Treatment of Childhood Depression
Although depression is cross-cutting in affecting persons of all age groups, its manifestation in depressed children is to some extend different from that of a depressed adult.
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As such, psychiatrists and medical practitioners take a very keen interest in early diagnosis of childhood depression, through establishing whether the afore-mentioned indicators of childhood depression may have been observed by the child’s immediate acquaintances. Such establishments form the foundation of the remedial action along the medical or psychosocial lines of therapy.
Now that many of the childhood depressive dispositions result from mental-injury, it is necessary that people should uphold each other’s mental health by ensuring a favorable psychosocial environment thrives; where a child’s autonomy is honored and respected rather than being considered an object of scorn.
Psychosocial therapy is therefore vested on the child’s mental welfare and it considers the family as the basic unit upon which the child’s recovery from childhood depression has to be effected. In addressing the child’s mental wellbeing, a psychiatrist employs the cognitive behavioral therapy, which is the most dominant, reliable and effective method of treating childhood depression (Graham, 2008, p. 1).
The cognitive therapy is based on the lemma that a child’s wrong self-perceptions concerning him/herself and his/her immediate environment distort the child’s cognitive normality resulting to childhood depression, as such, the therapy involves the identification of mental distortions, after which strategies are developed to restore the child’s cognitive normality.
Some of the strategies employed in this remedial endeavor include; a change of attitude to that positive attitude which fosters the child’s cognitive functions, programmed learning which enhances quick behavioral adjustments and the physiological domain is upheld by encouraging the child to exploit his/her leisure time wisely, for instance, by either relaxing or meditating (Irina, 2003, p.1).
This holistic integration of the personality of a child in the treatment process has ranked psychosocial therapy as the most effective means of curbing childhood depression way above the medical treatment option.
Medical option of Treatment
Medical practitioners in the field of childhood depression use antidepressants to minimize depression levels in children. The other class of effective anti-depression drug administered by doctors is mood stabilizers which include antipsychotic and anticonvulsant drugs. Medical research and experimentations in the treatment of childhood depression has confirmed that fluoxetine is usually superior to placebo in containing acute childhood depression cases (Graham, 2008, p. 1).
Antidepressants can only reduce childhood depression, instead of eliminating it. It is this fact which spells the importance of instituting a multidisciplinary treatment outlook in curbing childhood depression, lest it recurs in adulthood. It is therefore advisable that both the psychosocial therapy and the medical option of treating childhood depression be administered concurrently, for only then would there be a mutually enhanced intervention which ultimately guarantees the success of the treatment operation (Graham, 2008, p. 1).
Therefore, is arguable that the success of treating a depressed child lies not only in incorporating psychosocial therapy which encompasses the trio domains of the child’s personality; cognitive, behavioral and physiological – to the medical option, but also in instituting family educative forums as a follow-up program.
Prevention of Childhood Depression
For each of these bipolar strategies of treating childhood depression, early diagnosis of the illness is of central importance in containing the depression afflicting the child before it gains root to attain its terminal stature, thus, the need to strengthen the family and schooling units with educative forums on the necessary detective devices which would aid in intervention and referral measures (Favazza, 1996, p. 1).
The strategies employed in psychosocial and medical front of treating or lowering childhood depression can similarly be harnessed in inoculating the young ones against childhood depression. Preventive measures to childhood depression are anchored on the pillar of early diagnosis at the onset of childhood depression and carrying out immediate referral and prescriptive measures.
Minor childhood depressions arising from strained family frictions form one such class of preventive depressions, whereby, timely psychosocial therapy accommodates and acknowledges the welfare of children in such situations and therefore heals the child’s inherent psychological wound before it worsens (Irina, 2003, p.1).
Medical and psychosocial follow up initiatives are also an integral part of preventing childhood depression and the recurrence of unpleasant psycho-environmental settings which trigger childhood depression (Irina, 2003, p.1).
The introduction of psycho educational strategy to therapy, as opposed to direct lecture to parents only, has created an open forum which has in turn realized heightened child involvement in psychosocial therapies and it has been marked with unprecedented success. This success has been evident along the lines of client satisfaction, openness in the dialogue, and the attainment of the twin objectives of attitude and behavioral change.
Favazza, S. (1996). What do we know about self-injury? Web.
Irina, V. (2003). Depression in Children: What Causes It and How We Can Help. Web.
Graham, E. (2008). The Depressed Child. Web.
Thompson, T. (2010). Major Depression Treatment Options: Why Psychological Treatment Methods for Depression Can Work Better Than Antidepressants. Web.
John M. (2010). Childhood Depression. Web.