News About Depression in Children
September 2, 2010
by Kate Goodin
In June, Parenting School Years ran a feature on what parents need to know about childhood depression -- especially because it's more common than you’d think (the article includes a stat that says one in 20 adolescents are depressed -- that's around one child in every classroom). The article also touched on the murky waters of diagnosing children with depression, because so much about children changes emotionally, physically and mentally as they grow.
Now, new research has surfaced that indicates children as young as preschool-age -- 2 and 3 -- are being diagnosed with depression, according to The New York Times magazine in the article "Can Preschoolers Be Depressed?" Instead of viewing depression as an illness that appears in the teen or adult years, it's now being seen as something people have their whole lives. But the signs of depression -- different from ones you see in adults -- are difficult to pinpoint in ever-changing children, as stated in the article: "'How many times have you heard, "They’ll grow out of it" or "That’s just how he is"?' says Melissa Nishawala, a child psychiatrist at the New York University Child Study Center." (Read the article to get a full idea of the challenges of spotting depression in children.)
The proclivity to medicate depressed children is a new frontier as well -- and one that's got parents worried. The Times profiled a child named Kyle who, at 18 months, was put on antipsychotic drugs to calm severe temper tantrums (he was on a potent mix of antidepressants, an antipsychotic and sleeping pills by 3). Kyle was eventually weaned off the medication, but he wasn't at all alone: the article states that 500,000 American children and adolescents are on an antipsychotic drug. Why are they being so heavily medicated so young? One reason: it's cheaper. The article cites a Rutgers study that found children of lower-income families were four times as likely to be put on medication than those from families with private health insurance.
This is tough stuff read, but it's a relief that more is known about depression in children and the effects of overmedication. Parents, do you think children with mental illness are too heavily medicated? Would you like to see more counseling or therapy options available for children and parents?