In The Know Zone

Depression in Children

Depression in Adolescents and Children

Childhood and adolescence are normally marked by strong and often rapidly fluctuating emotions, which may have led to the long-held belief that young people were largely immune to depression.

That assumption has proven to be false. Children and teens do suffer depression, even depression serious enough to put their lives at risk. Children as young as 10 commit suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens. [21]

While children may manifest the classic symptoms of depression, there are also symptoms and signs common to depression in their particular age group.

In very young children, the signs of depression include failure to thrive, disrupted attachments to family, developmental delays, social withdrawal, separation anxiety, sleeping and eating problems and dangerous behavior. [22]

A child between six and 12 years old may suffer from chronic fatigue, appear apathetic or unmotivated and have difficulty with schoolwork.

In teens, depression takes forms similar to those of adults. Oversleeping, social isolation, self-destructive behavior, and a sense of hopelessness are common signs. [23]

Children considered at high risk for major depression or dysthymia include:

  • Children referred for mental health evaluation and treatment due to school problems
  • Abused children
  • Children with medical problems
  • Children from families with a history of depression
  • Children exposed to multiple stressful events
  • Gay and lesbian teens
  • Those living in rural environments more than city dwellers
  • Teens in jail
  • Pregnant teens [24] , [25]

While depression generally does not disappear among adults who have not received treatment, it will do so within a year in about 90 percent of children. However, it reappears within two years of the initial episode in about half of formerly depressed children, and within four years, 75 percent will suffer a recurrence. Worse still, about 35 percent of formerly depressed children will suffer major depression within one year of their first attack.

It is irresponsible to assume that a depressed child or teen will simply “get over it.”

[21] National Adolescent Health Information Center, Fact Sheet on Adolescent Suicide, 2000, University oif California, San Francisco

[22] Sarafolean MH, Depression in School Age Children and Adolescents: Characteristics, Assessment and Prevention; undated, available at; Accesssed 6 June 2004.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid

[25], What Causes Depression in Children?; 2000; available at, accessed 30 June 2004


In The Know: At Risk Pamphlet/ DVD Package
In The Know: At Risk DVD Package