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What is depression?

Depression goes beyond feeling temporarily sad or anxious. Depression is a mood disorder that affects how someone feels, thinks, and behaves. As a result, people with depression can have trouble with everyday activities, even those they used to enjoy. People who feel depressed need and deserve care – they should not be expected to pull themselves out of their depression.

It’s important to acknowledge depression, and take steps to support your child through it. Doing so may include finding specialized care for your child which may include therapy, medication, or both. This guide will help you understand how to help your child with depression

What does depression look like for your child?

A child who is depressed might feel overwhelmed, tired, or hopeless, or highly irritable. They might also blame themselves for their circumstances and the way they feel. Understanding and identifying depression in yourself can be a tough task, especially for children.

Observing changes in your child's behavior, appetite, energy level, sleep patterns, and academic performance is important to understand if they might be depressed.

Talking to your child about depression

Start a conversation

Express concern that your child seems very sad. If necessary, you may need to help your child understand that not feeling good physically (feeling tired, lethargic, or having trouble concentrating) may be a way of their bodies letting them know that they don’t feel good emotionally. In children, depression can also take the form of being highly irritable most of the time with most people.

Next Steps

Understand the conversation

Ask if there's anything that would make them feel better. See if there’s anything your child might be open to trying to help them feel better.

Five conversation starter pack cards splayed out on a blue background.

Talk with your child

Our Conversation Starter Pack (CSP) is an interactive resource, available in English and Spanish, that supports parents, caregivers, trusted adults and young people in discussions about emotional wellness. It includes reflection questions, dialogue prompts and activities everyone can take part in.