Depression in Children and Teens
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
Get emergency care if you or a loved one has serious thoughts of suicide or harming others.
Depression is a medical illness. It affects your mental and physical health. Anyone can have depression. It is important to know that it is not your fault. Children and teens who are depressed may have different symptoms than adults.
Younger children who are depressed may:
- Have a poor appetite and/or weight loss
- Feel sad or hopeless
- Not enjoy playing as much as usual
- Worry more
Older children who are depressed may:
- Be anxious or have trouble focusing.
- Be angry and act out or lose their temper more.
- Have changes in appetite (eating more than usual, or eating less)
- Not want to go to school or other social activities
- Complain of feeling sick often.
- Seem less confident or feel like they can’t do anything right
Path to improved well being
It’s important to regularly talk with your teen. You can show you care and support them by doing these things:
- Let them know you are there for them.
- Always listen. Remain quiet so they feel like they are being heard.
- Avoid bombarding them with questions and lectures after listening.
- Help your teen create a healthy lifestyle with regular sleep, a balanced diet, and exercise.
- Gently remind your teen to take their medicine.
- Look for signs that their depression is getting worse.
- Talk to your teen about substance abuse (alcohol and drugs). These substances make depression worse.
- Keep your house safe for your teen by eliminating alcohol, remove guns and other weapons, and keep prescription medicines locked up.
- Have a safety plan in place if your teen is suicidal or needs urgent help.
Contact your child’s healthcare provider if you notice symptoms for 2 or more weeks. It might mean that your child is depressed. Your healthcare provider can do an exam and refer your child to a specialist. This may include a counselor, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Your child can talk to them about what and how they feel. Family counseling can help everyone in your family. A combination of counseling and medicine can help treat depression in most young people.
Contact local mental health crisis supports if you think your child or teen is having thoughts of suicide. Call 911 if your child attempts suicide.
Things to consider
Young people can be depressed for many reasons. Genetics, health conditions, and life events can be factors. Below are other possible reasons for depression in children and teens.
- The family moves to a new place to live
- The child has to change schools
- A pet, friend, or family member dies
- Someone in the family is very sick
- Behavior problems or conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Your child is dealing with gender identity or sexual orientation issues.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Mental Health Mobile Crisis Line (Nova Scotia)
Toll Free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 1-888-429-8167
PEI Mobile Mental Health Service
Toll Free 1-833-553-6983, available 24 hours a day
Public Health Agency of Canada
Canadian Mental Health Association