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Depression signs in kids should raise red flags

Herald-Tribune - 10/31/2017

BROOKVILLE ? "One in five kids between the ages of 8-15 have a mental health diagnosis," reported licensed clinical social worker Laura Harmon recently. Amazingly, "70 percent of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. It goes on for awhile before it gets diagnosed and treated."

The Community Mental Health Center North Outpatient Services, Batesville, program manager was speaking to two dozen youth workers about "Child and Adolescent Depression and Anxiety" during a breakfast presentation sponsored by the Indiana Youth InstituteOct. 5 at Brookville United Methodist Church.

Risk factors that could lead to a mental illness are loss of a loved one; divorce or separation of parents; any major transition (new home, new school); traumatic life experiences, like living through a natural disaster; teasing or bullying; or difficulties in school or with classmates, she reported in a PowerPoint presentation.

There are warning signs of mental illness that parents, teachers and other youth workers should watch for: problems in more than one setting (school, home, peers); changes in appetite or sleep; social withdrawal or fears of things he or she did not used to be afraid of; returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bed-wetting; signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness; signs of self-destructive behavior, such as head banging or suddenly getting hurt often; repeated thoughts of death; feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks; seriously trying to harm or kill himself or herself or making plans to do so; experiencing sudden overwhelming fear for no reason; getting in many fights or wanting to hurt others; showing severe out-of-control behavior; not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to make himself or herself lose weight; having intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities; experiencing extreme difficulty controlling behavior, putting himself or herself in physical danger or causing problems in school; using drugs or alcohol repeatedly; having severe mood swings; and showing drastic changes in behavior or personality.

To find out what a child is feeling, "I am not opposed to checking out my kid's Facebook page," Harmon confessed.

Symptoms of depression in young ones include a persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood; feelings of hopelessness or pessimism; irritability and anger outbursts; feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness; loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities; decreased energy or fatigue; moving or talking more slowly; feeling restless or having trouble sitting still; difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions; difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening or oversleeping; appetite and/or weight changes; thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts; aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without physical cause. "They complain a lot about not feeling well."

The social worker listed three types of depression:

persistent depressive disorder ? generally milder depressive symptoms that last for two or more years. "This is a child who seems down most of the time."

disruptive mood dysregulation disorder ? characterized by extreme irritability, anger and frequent, intense temper outbursts.

major depressive disorder ? significant impairment at home, in school and the community. "They may not want to attend school at all, but want to spend a lot of time in their room (at home) withdrawing."

Depression can lead to suicide, the second leading cause of death in young people ages 10-34, according to the speaker. In 2015, 5,491 young people died in that manner ? one every two hours.

One in five teens in the U.S. seriously consider suicide annually and in 2003, 8 percent of adolescents attempted it. "Often they will talk more about this to their peers than adults." She noted, "The vast majority of people who have attempted suicide and not been successful will report they were glad they were not successful."

Harmon emphasized, "We can all help prevent suicide." She added, "Texts are one of the best ways for teens to communicate." She provided resources. Teens or parents may access the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741 or going to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline may be contacted at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or

Debbie Blank can be contacted at or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

First in a two-part series

Part 2: Anxiety symptoms, how to discuss mental illness with children and available treatments, Nov. 3


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