World Health Day: Expert psychologists urge parents to keep a look out for depression signs in children

DUBAI, — In support of the 2017 World Health Day theme, “Depression: Let’s talk”, Dr. Eve McAllister and Dr. Daniel Stark, Clinical Psychologists at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, are calling for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression in children.

According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting over 300 million people.

“Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions worldwide, including the Middle East,” said Dr. Stark. In a new report published by the World Health Organisation, titled “Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders”, it is estimated that 5.1 percent of the UAE population are suffering with depression.

Depression is a common mental health condition that negatively affects how people feel, the way that they think and how they act. It usually involves a child feeling sad or becoming significantly more irritable and finding it more difficult to get pleasure out of activities.

Depression can also include physical symptoms, such as fatigue, weight loss or gain, sleeping difficulties and finding it difficult to concentrate. Children with depression may wish to withdraw from day-to-day activities that they previously enjoyed. Some older children with depression may also experience thoughts of life not being worth living or thoughts of harming themselves.

Transitions or changes in a child’s life may trigger the onset of a mental health difficulty, such as depression or anxiety. “Parents may see these challenges arise following times of change, such as moving school or moving home, or moving to a new country,” Dr. McAllister said.

“Depression may also be linked to another underlying mental health condition. For example, if your child has become very worried about speaking in public, asking and answering questions in school, and wants to avoid social gatherings at home, then they may be experiencing social anxiety. This shyness can then lead to depression if it leads to your child becoming isolated from peers,” she added.

Depression is very common in young people who already have physical health conditions too.

Stark explains, “Looking at the scientific literature, young people with a physical health condition are often more likely to experience depression compared to their peers. Also, is often their mental health rather than their physical health difficulties that has the biggest impact on quality of life.”

For parents who are worried that their child has depression or a mental health condition, McAllister urges parents that the first step is ensuring the child gets a thorough assessment from a mental healthcare professional.

“Depression shouldn’t be a stigmatising condition; we should be talking about it. It is a common difficulty, and the good news is that it is a very treatable condition that can lead to big improvements in children’s functioning and well-being at home and at school,” Stark concluded.

Source: Emirates News Agency