Depression also affects children and adolescents

Even if there is no single explanation for all behavioral problems in children and adolescents: Behind aggression, as well as behind other abnormalities or physical symptoms, can be a depression. This is what the "Berlin Alliance Against Depression" points out, especially in view of the sometimes simplified discussion of violence in schools.

Depression in children is often recognized late

Overall, the topic of depression in childhood and adolescence is sometimes neglected criminally. This also has to do with the fact that the appearances are usually different from those in depressed adults and that both parents and doctors rarely come up with the idea that the child may suffer from depression. "The result is often too late expert treatment, " Dr. Meryam Schouler-Ocak, head of the Berlin Alliance. It was not so long ago when experts also assumed that depression could not exist in children.

It is now clear that around two out of every 100 pre-primary and primary school children suffer from depression. From puberty, the incidence increases. Overall, the possibility of suffering depression throughout adolescence is between 9.4 and 18.5% (according to various sources in the literature).

Cause of childhood depression

This may be - but need not - early childhood experiences, as well as currently death or separation in the family or close caregivers. If parents are depressed, it can also affect the offspring. It is undisputed in the art today that both components of the personal environment and biological factors play a role in whether a person is prone to depression or not.

Social factors such as social inequality, immigrant background and high performance demands, as well as "arbitrariness" or neglect in education, are also seen as reinforcing children's mental illness.

Depression in children - symptoms

Symptoms vary not only according to age, but also greatly from case to case, so that differentiation from "normal" sadness can be difficult in children, and especially during puberty. Parents, teachers and doctors overlook depression too often.

False advice such as "pull yourself together" also helps to prevent depression from being treated. In addition, sufferers and their families are afraid of being labeled as "crazy".

In children, the signs of depression are almost always atypical. Only in adolescence they are similar to those of adults. In younger children, it is particularly important to observe their play, eating and sleeping behavior. For older children, the handling of performance requirements must also be considered. It is also particularly important to interview parents, teachers or kindergarten teachers. Ultimately, only specialists and psychotherapists can ensure DIAGNOSIS. Close cooperation with family physicians is therefore particularly important.

Treatment of depressed children and adolescents

The treatment of depressive children and adolescents initially consists of psychotherapy, which usually involves the family as well. Interventions in the living environment may also be indicated. Occasionally, an additional dose of antidepressant medication is required, which must be tailored to the patient's age and type of depression. Even if children and adolescents need special care in dealing with psychotropic drugs, they are better than their reputation. Here, "ideological bias" can hurt. Inpatient treatment of depressed children and adolescents in specialist clinics is only necessary in particularly serious cases.

Help through the environment

Caregivers, teachers, parents, and other close-by adults can help prevent late diagnosis and treatment by looking for behavioral changes such as performance degradation, social withdrawal, constant irritability, frequent sadness, or even suicidal speech. However, they should neither make a diagnosis nor treat, but transmit their impressions and provide help. Teachers also have support options available.

Important for anyone dealing with children and adolescents suffering from depression: accepting, communicating that, as well as physical disorders, it is a disease, engaging in education and social life without overburdening, providing shelter, without annoying behavior, encourage to small steps and give positive feedback even with small successes.

In the case of very severe depressions associated with suicidal thoughts and expressions, the thematization is quite appropriate; but this should not happen, for example, in the class group. For even with well-intentioned mediation of the problem, the consequences are difficult to assess, among other things, because hardly an individual will ask before the other students when he is at risk. Also imitations (Werther effect) can not be ruled out. It is cheaper to convey in general, which offers of help there are for young people in a crisis.


Even children and adolescents can be depressed. The distinction between a normal mood and illness must be made by professionals. The treatment has very good chances of success. And: the person's environment can contribute a lot to the timely recognition and recovery.

Share with friends

Leave your comment