Depression is a concerning mental health challenge right now at a time when normal life has been disrupted and outlets that children once had to be mentally healthy are gone. In addition, like adults, kids and teens have a lot to deal with right now!
What does depression in children or teens look like?
Depression in kids and teens can be a little bit challenging to detect. Teens can show irritability and anger when their real issue is depression. Kids and teens may initially begin to show a drop in their academic progress (i.e., lower grades). Kids and teens may stop enjoying people and activities they usually enjoy and withdraw. They can feel hopeless, worthless, and guilty over things that don’t even relate to them. (If you and your spouse/significant other broke up, your child is likely to feel guilty about that.) Depressive symptoms can show themselves in either too much or too little sleep – but changing sleep patterns is often one of the telltale signs, along with others. They may lose their ability to keep their focus for long and may start thinking about death and/or suicide. They may begin to give away their possessions. Always err on the side of caution – get this checked out by competent mental health care professionals even though your child may say they were kidding or it’s nothing. Another sign may be a lack of their usual robust energy. If they stop showing emotion, you have a right to be suspicious that this could be a sign of a depressed state.
What can we do?
Thomas Edison (1847-1931) said, “the doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” As we know better than any other time in our history, there is a very succinct, direct connection between the physical body, the mind, the feelings, and one’s spirit or soul. In 2014, a large meta-analysis (a study of all studies done on a particular subject) was conducted by multiple researchers and results were reported in the American Journal of Public Health. These authors found “a significant, cross-sectional relationship between unhealthy dietary patterns and poorer mental health in children and adolescents.” There was also a positive relationship “between good-quality diet and better mental health.” So, one’s diet can literally make or break your child’s mental health.
Last year NPR wrote about a study which demonstrated how changes in diet – eating lots of vegetables and fruits and limiting processed foods – can reduce depressive symptoms. Diets high in refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugary foods and drinks seems to cause inflammation and is a definite risk factor for depression. So, we know that changing a kid’s or teen’s diet can be very challenging, but well worth the effort.
A combination of healthy diet and supplements should bring about a greater change. There have been studies demonstrating this effect. Amino acid therapy is also showing great promise as a substitute for antidepressant drugs. Many treatment facilities are beginning to offer such services, and more. Mindfulness activities are also helpful in centering a person and there are many approaches, such as doing yoga, meditation, EFT, and others.
You – the parent or caretaker – can participate in your child’s or your teen’s recovery by starting slowly with dietary changes and participating in some of these activities with your child/teen.
To find out more about depression, medications and what you can do for your child or teen, view our parent's resource page here.
As always – have a happy, holistically healthy day!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.