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Depression in children and young people - information and advice for parents and carers

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Spotting the signs of depression in children and young people

The NHS Choices website has helpful information on how to spot if your child/young person is depressed titled ‘Depression in children and teenagers’, which gives parents a good summary of what depression in children and young people looks like.

The NHS Choices website also have a parent page that compares the symptoms of a child who is in a low mood, with a child who has depression, titled 'What's the difference between low mood and depression in children?'

At any age it can be hard for a parent/carer to distinguish if something is wrong or if it is just a phase of childhood or adolescent behaviour! You may find the symptoms of depression might be more obvious to spot in young people as they tend to have more awareness of their mental health and will confide in a friend or trusted adult. However, primary school-aged children are less likely to know what depression is and ask for help as their emotional maturity is not as well developed.

Change of appetite, sleep disturbances, sadness, agitation, anxiety, loss of interest, are some common signs that your child may be depressed.

Place2Be has some useful guidance on how parents/carers can start supporting their child’s mental health.

Helping to educate your child/young person about depression can help them to talk to you about their feelings and this can make it easier for you to recognise when your child is emotionally unwell and in need of support.

How should I talk to my child/young person about their feelings?

The NHS Choices website has an advice page on how to start a conversation with your child tiled ‘Talking to children about their feelings’

MindEd-for families has a resourceful section on Talking to My Child to help you find ways to communicate to children and teenagers when they might need it.

Resources to help children/young people explore their emotions

Childline has a good ‘Depression and Feeling Sad’  section full of good information and advice aimed at children.

If you have a teenager, you can refer them to our depression advice page on The Source and they can find further information on YoungMinds

Don’t forget the power of books for supporting your child’s mental health! The Royal College of Psychiatrists website has a list of children’s books - suitable for younger children from preschool to 12 years 

Suffolk Libraries has a list of self-help books suitable for young people and parent/carers available to request at their local library. Visit www.suffolklibraries.co.uk  

Parents/carers can also find various book recommendations to support your child with all sorts of issues from the Suffolk Parent Hub

Take a look at our list of 'Videos and creative things to help support children's mental health'.

I think my child is depressed, what should I do?

If you think your child or young person is depressed, make an appointment with them at your GP surgery. You can ask to have a longer appointment if you feel that would help. Do not ignore the problem.

Alternatively, you can make a referral or get advice about wellbeing and mental health support services from the Suffolk Children & Young People's Emotional Wellbeing Hub

Where can I find useful resources?

The Royal College of Psychiatrists website has practical advice for parents and carers on helping your child to cope - ‘Depression in young people - helping children to cope: information for parents, carers and anyone who works with young people’. 

The YoungMinds charity website has a leaflet for parents and carers titled 'Depression and your child', which you can download a free digital copy of from their website. They also have the Parents Lounge with lots of 20 minute activity ideas, conversation starters and resources to make talking your teen easier. 

Where can I find local support groups and organisation who can help?

Here is a list of local support services and organisations for depression (you can filter the list for what you need).

Where can I find a useful health and wellbeing App?

If you are looking for helpful phone apps that can provide some in-hand support to a young person struggling with emotional issues, please see our list of the best emotional wellbeing apps reviewed by young people.

Who can I speak to for advice?

If you are concerned about the mental health of a child or young person aged 0-25, please contact the Suffolk Children and Young People's Emotional Wellbeing Hub to get advice or make a referral. 

Other services you can contact for support:

YoungMinds Parent Helpline

Call: 0808 802 5544. Their helpline is available Monday-Friday, from 9.30am to 4pm.

The YoungMinds helpline has trained advisers who offer friendly and confidential advice to help answer your questions.

Suffolk School Nursing - ChatHealth Text Service

Text 07507 333356 for confidential health advice from the school nurse (available Mon-Fri 9.30am to 4.30pm).

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