Your 3-year-old isn’t her usual spry self. She no longer brightens at the sight of you first thing in the morning. She refuses to eat, and she hasn’t been this cranky since she first started teething. Instead of tagging along with her older siblings or contentedly scribbling in her favorite Blues Clues coloring book, she gazes blankly out the window, listless and dejected. Could she be depressed?
Depression in Preschoolers
Like most people, you probably assume preschoolers are too young to get the blues. But new research shows clinical depression knows no age. Depression — and even thoughts of suicide — are as likely to affect toddlers and adolescents as they are adults.
In an ongoing National Institute of Mental Health study, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine revealed that children experience the same symptoms of depression often found in adults, and with the same severity.
Children are more depressed than ever before, prompting a major Surgeon General report on children’s mental health, and sending our nation’s behavioral health caseload soaring to record highs.
According to the National Mental Health Association, one in three American children suffers from depression. Magellan Behavior Health, the leading mental health provider in the United States, reports that more than 3,500 of its nearly 149,000 members with depressive disorders are under age 10.
In spite of the staggering statistics, depression remains the most under-diagnosed and under-treated illness among children and adolescents. Unlike the reddish, raised bumps of chickenpox or the leaky nose of the common cold, the symptoms of depression are not so concrete and, consequently, often go unnoticed by unsuspecting parents.