I’m worried my child might be depressed
Realising your child is unhappy is upsetting for parents and it can be difficult to know what is just mood swings that might be expected. Of course, most children feel down some of the time. True depression is when such feelings last a long time and are starting to get in the way of everyday life which is rare in primary school-age children. It also may not be obvious as low mood in children can show itself in other ways such as school refusal or fatigue.
It may happen because of circumstances (such as bullying, bereavement, or abuse) but it can also develop for no obvious reason. If you’re worried, definitely discuss your concerns with your GP. At this age, medication is rarely prescribed and the most common treatment would be support and counselling. Have a look at the resources under Anxiety as well as there is a strong overlap between the two conditions.
Signs your child may be depressed This page discusses common signs of depression in children, some tips on talking to children about mood and when to see your GP.
Websites and support
- Childline Written for children: explains what depression is and what you can do about it. Would be a good page to read together with a parent.
- Kooth offers online counselling and resources for children and young people. They can log in on a computer or smartphone and chat with a counsellor in the afternoons and evenings. There are also blogs and articles. Probably suitable for about 10+ years but could be looked at together with a parent if younger. Good for those who either don’t want or can’t afford face-to-face counselling. Free but you need to create a login for confidentiality.
- Stop, Breathe, Think – free online counselling for under 8-21 years old. There is information for parents on their website also. For other options, see our counselling page.
- Sometimes I feel Sad by Tim Alexander. For children aged 5+, especially useful for younger children who struggle to express how they are feeling.
- The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones. A picture book story for children aged 4-9 with low mood. It is best read by parents with their child and encourages your child to talk about their feelings. There is a good section for parents at the back of the book.
- Blueloon by Julia Cook. An illustrated simply written book for 5-11-year-olds. It illustrates how a child may feel hopeless about the situation and what others can do to help. It also contains a section for parents to read alone about how to help.
Apps and games
- Headspace Guided meditations suitable for all levels and ages. Free initially but costs a small amount for the children’s version or the more advanced version. Very popular, appealing graphics.
- Boost your mood game