An individual’s mental health is built early in their life. Parents, carers and other adults have a critical role to play. Good mental health in childhood often carries on throughout life.
Depression in infancy is uncommon, and the best way to support a child’s emotional development is to have safe, secure and loving relationships.
Depression in the years leading up to puberty is much more common and may be linked to stressful triggers for the child such as family difficulties, birth of a sibling, or an impact on the child's social ties such as a move to a new house or school. Bullying is also a common trigger for depression problems.
If your child has symptoms of depression, it's best to seek professional help. Many depressed children go on to have further episodes of depression; however, those with mild depression related to a significant stressful event have a good rate of recovery.
Signs of depression in young children are being very sad or cranky for a few weeks, losing interest in daily activities, being more negative than usual or having sad thoughts and feelings that stop them enjoying life.
Common signs of depression among children in the years up to 12 can include:
- feeling sad and unhappy
- feeling helpless
- worrying a lot
- seeming to have less fun
- fidgeting, not being able to sit still
- being easily distracted or having trouble concentrating
- getting into fights
- blaming others for problems
- teasing others
- not understanding others’ feelings
Where to get help for your child
See your doctor who can assess your child and give you advice. You could also speak to the guidance officer or counsellor at your child's school. Your doctor may refer your child to a child psychologist.
Your doctor may refer your child to a private psychiatrist who is accredited in child and adolescent psychiatry or to a specialist child or adolescent mental health service provided through the public health system.
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Last reviewed: February 2020