Depression in childhood is increasing at an alarming rate in Britain, according to The Telegraph and assuredly, in the US as well. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) reports that there are 80,000 children in the UK that suffer from severe depression, and 8,000 of these are under 10 years old! According to the CDC, suicide was the leading cause of death for children ages 12-17. So what is causing childhood to be so disturbing for this generation?
Here’s one opinion on the matter. Lucie Russell, director of campaigns for the charity “Young Minds”, said: “Modern childhood has become really stressful. There are family breakdowns, increasing pressure from school with testing from a very early age, and then the really significant factor in recent years is social media.”
She continued, “It used to be the case that while some children might have a hard time at school, they could go home and switch off. Now there isn’t that escape, children are on devices all the time. As well as the problems with cyberbullying, we have developed this culture where even young children are trying to create a brand, based on how they look – which can make girls especially feel very anxious – and about how many Facebook friends they have.”
Experts say these problems are on the rise because of several factors, including better awareness and diagnosis. Also, there are increasing rates of poverty that put children at risk, as well as environmental toxins and other factors, according to a report released by the Atlanta, Georgia-based Center for Disease Control (CDC). Roughly one in five children experience a mental disorder in a given year, according the CDC.
Dr. Ruth Perou, author of the study, said she hopes efforts by the CDC and other federal agencies to work together will be a model for states. “Nobody is really spared. It affects all demographics, boys and girls, and across all regions.”
These numbers and reports are shocking, so what can be done to care for these children before things get out of hand? It seems that the biggest thing we can do is learn to recognize the signs of depression and get help early on.
Experts say that children suffering from depression often feel like they don’t fit in. They could be tired all the time, have trouble sleeping, even complain of aches and pains. They could be easily agitated and have vocal outbursts or cry a lot. There could be a reduction in interests, or an inability to function at events and activities.
WebMD makes an important point, “Not all children have all of these symptoms. In fact, most will display different symptoms at different times and in different settings. Although some children may continue to function reasonably well in structured environments, most kids with significant depression will suffer a noticeable change in social activities, loss of interest in school and poor academic performance, or a change in appearance. Children may also begin using drugs or alcohol, especially if they are over the age of 12.”
For a list of facilities and agencies, by state, that can help a child struggling with depression, click here.
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