Understanding Depression & Anxiety In Children
Life is full of diverse experiences for each of us, much like a roller-coaster ride. When things are going well, we are joyful; nevertheless, we all go through difficult times when things do not go our way, and we experience a variety of negative emotions. Similarly, a child’s life is full of ups and downs. They experience several emotions every day like happiness, sadness, excitement, anger, worry, etc. Children are more sensitive to their environment and when they encounter any kind of changes happening around them, they tend to display certain emotions which affect their mental health. These changes can be like the first day at school or school change, change of house, separation of parents, losing friends, and much more.
Every child displays different emotions in a different situation according to their varied personalities. For eg., on starting of school some kids are excited to attend school and meet new friends but we see some kids are crying and they don’t want to go as they might be feeling nervous due to some reason. All kids feel unhappy at times. But, it becomes a concern when a child is persistently showing signs of being unhappy and are struggling to bounce back from negative experiences. The continuous feeling of unhappiness in the child could be a sign of depression.
Signs & Symptoms of Depression in Children
According to the UNICEF’s report on mental health, ‘The States of the world’s Children 2021’, 14 percent of 15 to 24-year-olds in India, or 1 in 7, are depressed. This number can’t be ignored. Thus, every parent, guardian, or teacher of a child must be aware of whether the child is struggling with depression and anxiety at any time. Let’s discuss some of the most common signs of depression and anxiety in children. A child is said to be depressed if they are experiencing the following symptoms for more than two weeks –
- Constant feeling of sadness
- Seem fatigued and lack energy
- Often miss school days or comes late
- Lack of interest in activities and not enjoying anything
- Unable to concentrate in class
- Not sleeping properly
- Thoughts of worthlessness and feeling helpless
- Not submitting assignments
- Isolating from friends
- Not eating properly
- Keep snapping on small things
Parents should observe their child for the above symptoms to understand what their child is going through. Similarly, if a teacher sees these alarming signs constantly in any of their student, rather than ignoring they should report to the parents about this condition.
Causes of Depression and Anxiety in Children
Constant research is going through to find out the reasons for childhood depression & anxiety. Knowing about the symptoms are important to address these issue on time but it is equally important to know the root causes of depression. What are the events that are steering a child towards anxiety and depression mode? If we can know about them well on time, the situation can be handled in a much better way. Let us discuss the common causes that can lead a child to fall into the trap of depression –
1. Traumatic Experiences – Any kind of trauma like losing a loved one, different forms of abuse, any violence, accident, etc
2. Big life changes – Sometimes children feel anxiety when there is a change in their life like the shift of school or class, change of house, change of people around them. Any type of relevant transition can make children stressed.
3. Comparisons – It is a common practice of parents and teachers to compare a child’s performance with other students, siblings, or other kids. Sometimes this constant comparison makes them fill with inferior-complex and pushes them into depression.
4. Fear or worry – Sometimes children have constant worry or fear about any life event or a person. Their fear of encountering that situation makes them stressed.
5. Lack of love and time from loved ones – In some cases a child is, unfortunately, gets ignored. The ignorance can be from parents, teachers, and friends as well. There can be many reasons for this.
Impact of Childhood Depression on Academics
For a growing child, education is the most important factor which should not be hindered due to any reason. But, the feeling of depression restricts children to focus on academics. It can severely impact the academic performance of the student in the class. Depression can lead to a lack of focus in the classroom, poor relations with classmates and teachers, lack of memory power to grasp new learnings, disinterest in activities, etc. The biggest consequence is that it will negatively influence the academic achievements of the student in all aspects. A school can do regular behavior assessments of students to know about their mental well-being.
Role Of Parents in Dealing with Childhood Depression
Parents are closest to a child and it is their first responsibility to check the mental well-being of their children. So, what should parents do to pull their kids out of the state of depression? Let’s discuss –
1. Avoid negative parenting – This is the most common cause of child depression. Parents should treat their children with love and care rather than handle them roughly. Expressing positive emotions than negative ones will bring immense change in the child’s state of mind and he will be happy.
2. Spend more time – Mostly both the parents are working and as a result, they can’t spend much time with their child. Thus, the child feels ignored and unable to share their emotions and feelings. Parents should spend a dedicated amount of time with children so that they don’t feel alone.
3. Avoid comparisons – Any kind of stress and pressure to perform should not be put on a child by parents by comparing them to other kids.
Role of Teachers and School in Dealing with Childhood Depression
So, what school can do to address this issue in students? As children spent most of their time in school and around teachers, there is a good opportunity for teachers to realize this issue in the first place. Let’s discuss how they can deal with this –
1. Extend support and encouragement – Teachers can talk to students and make them feel comfortable so that they can talk about their issues and feel relieved.
2. Extend the time limit to submit assignments – Apart from supporting, the time limit to submit assignments could be increased for those students who are mentally depressed.
3. Yoga & Meditation sessions – Schools can regularly arrange mindfulness classes at school before starting academic sessions. It will help students to calm their minds.
4. Inform parents – If the teacher is the first to recognize the symptoms of depression in a student, it would be in the best interest to quickly inform the parents about the child’s state of mind.
5. Workshops at school – Schools can hold workshops for teachers training them on how to work out the signs of depression in students and deal with it.
The Next Steps…
Parents can determine if their child is suffering from depression by noticing the possible symptoms and taking steps to prevent them. Apart from the above-discussed possible solutions, an effective student management system such as Campus 365 can also play a key role in resolving the issue of child depression at school. The app has a 'Mood Tracking Feature' that collects daily feedback from students about how they are feeling to keep track of their mental health to see if they are enjoying school & are happy. It monitors a child's mood at regular intervals in order to assess their mental well-being and take suitable measures to address any issues. With this software, the school can do timely behavior assessments and take appropriate action for students who exhibit consistent indicators of depression. Also, it helps to parents get a comprehensive report of their child's moods, allowing more focus on the child.