With the school summer holidays over, Leicestershire children are already settling back into the school routine. Understandably, most children aren’t looking forward to hitting the books again, but is there something bigger that’s worrying them?
Some studies show that almost one in four young people will experience depression before they are 19 years old. It’s important to get help early if you think your child may be depressed. The longer it goes on, the more likely it is to disrupt your child’s life and turn into a long-term problem.
Sarah Tebbett, quality lead for public health (school) nursing at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust said: “It can be hard for parents to tell the difference between behaviours that are part of normal development, and those that signal real underlying unhappiness. Being patient and calm, and letting kids know that you will listen when they want to talk is important. Younger children may find it helpful to write down their worries and post them in a special ‘worry box’ which can keep hold of the worries, so they don’t have to. Parents can then find a good time to talk the worries through with them.
“Both the Health for Kids (www.healthforkids.co.uk/feelings) and Health for Teens (www.healthforteens.co.uk/feelings) websites have lots of interactive resources to support children and young people in dealing with difficult emotions. Your child’s public health (school) nurse can also provide support and advice around emotional wellbeing.”
Some signs of depression in children can include having trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual, eating less than usual or overeating, or being unable to relax, concentrate or make decisions. Headaches and stomach aches may be physical symptoms of anxiety.
A teacher may be able to deal with the problem or may involve a school counsellor or welfare worker depending on the situation. Alternatively, book an appointment to see your GP who may suggest a referral to a mental health service specialising in supporting young people.
YoungMinds (www.youngminds.org.uk) offers free confidential online and telephone support to anyone worried about the emotional and mental wellbeing of anyone aged under 25. The Parents Helpline (freephone 0808 802 5544) is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm.
Childline (www.childline.org.uk) offers free confidential counselling for children (freephone 0800 1111) and is available 24 hours a day.
If a child says they feel empty or numb, guilty or worthless, or has thoughts about suicide or self-harming, parents should encourage them to speak to a professional immediately.
NHS Choices has some tips on talking to younger children and talking to teenagers.