Depression in children
Depression is one of the most common mental health concerns of adults, but it has long been overlooked with children and adolescents. It has only been since the 1980s that depression in children and adolescents has emerged as an issue at the forefront of professional concern.
Editor's Note: Antidepressants were among the most commonly prescribed medications in 2002. From 1995 - 2002, use of antidepressants skyrocketed by 124% in children. U.S. FDA analysis suggests links between some antidepressants and suicidal thoughts or behavior in children and teenagers.
According to research on depression, the disease is evident in some form in an estimated 17.5 million Americans, including an estimated one in 10 children. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry places the number of significantly depressed children and adolescents even higher-at 7%, or more than 3.4 million youngsters. Epidemiological studies indicate that the prevalence of depression rises from approximately 1% to 2% in childhood to the adult levels of 6% to 8% by the end of the adolescent years.
The primary characteristics of depression are excessive sadness, loss of interest in activities, sleeping problems (either sleeping to much or not enough), slowing of physical movements (in some cases physical agitation), lack of energy, preoccupation with death or dying, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and difficulty in thinking, concentrating, or making decisions. One symptom commonly seen in depressed children and adolescents is a failure to make expected weight gains, as opposed to actual weight loss.
While awareness about depression in kids is increasing and medication can help treat the illness, a lot of children still suffer because adults don't realize they are depressed. Studies have found that eating fish could stave off depression (even postnatal depression), slow mental ageing and reduce risk of suicide. A report in the British journal, the Lancet in 1998, gave the details of a study conducted by Joseph Hibbeln of the National Institute of Health, which suggests that the consumption rate of Omega-3s found in vegetable oils, fish and shellfish is correlated to the rates of depression. It was found that there is a direct correlation to lower rates of depression in countries that consumed large amounts of fish. Hibbeln had also predicted the amount of depression in countries based on the amount of fish consumed by that country.
1. Fassler, David “Help Me, I'm Sad: Recognizing, Treating and Preventing Childhood Depression”, Viking/Allen Lane, 1997
2. Moorhead, Joanna “Is there a catch”, The Guardian (London), September 16, 2003
3. Kutcher, S. “Practitioner review: The pharmacotherapy of adolescent depression” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (1997).
4. Reuters, Paul Simao, Aug 26, 2004