What is it?
While all children feel sad and moody at times, depression is more than that. It is a change in how your child views the world. They may feel continually sad and see nothing worthwhile in the future. If their mood has lasted more than two weeks and is intense, they may be suffering from depression.
Is it common?
Australian research  indicates that around four percent of children aged 4–12 years of age present with anxiety and depression. As such it is more common than many might think.
What are the causes?
They may feel continually sad and see nothing worthwhile in the future.
There is no one identifiable cause of depression, but the Department of Health, though their ‘Profile of depression in Australia’ report identified some major risk factors contributing to vulnerability towards depression in childhood as being:
- One or both parents suffering from depression
- The loss of a caring parent
- Physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse
- Poor parenting practices
- Severe marital discord, divorce, and other family disruptions
- Low-income household
What are the symptoms?
The clinical diagnosis of depression is made on the basis of the existence of a collection of signs and symptoms. The ‘Mental health of young people in Australia’ report gave the following description of symptoms in children:
“Children with depressive disorders feel sad, lack interest in activities they previously enjoyed, criticise themselves, and are pessimistic or hopeless about the future. Thinking that life is not worth living, they may contemplate suicide. They may also be irritable and aggressive. They may be indecisive, and have problems concentrating. They tend to lack energy and to have problems sleeping. Major Depressive Disorder is a serious condition characterised by one or more major episodes of depression. A major depressive episode occurs when a child experiences symptoms of depression most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two consecutive weeks.”
What are the treatments?
Treatments for depression can range from behavioural coaching, to psychological treatment through to medication. Research indicates that currently only one in four young people with mental health problems receives professional help, but if you do suspect that your child might have depression then the earlier you can start treatment, the better the outcome. So talk to your family doctor and school-based counselor for a specialist referral.
Federal Department of Health – ‘Profile of depression in Australia’
Federal Department of Health - ‘The mental health of young people in Australia’
 The mental health of young people in Australia: Key findings from the child and adolescent component of the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being. www.health.gov.au