By Brandy Browne
According to the CDC, over 1.9 million children are suffering from depression worldwide (CDC, 2020, retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/anxiety-depression-children.html). With that number likely to be inflating due to a year of social isolation, trauma such as death or illness of loved ones, and loss of normalcy, what can a parent do to help tackle depression with their littles?
5 Strategies to Tackle Depression in Children
- Use children’s books to facilitate conversations with your children. A personal favorite of mine is Meh by Deborah Malcolm. I have used this pictures only text with clients of all ages to open conversations about persistent sadness with them. The story walks through a young boy’s experience with being pulled into the darkness and finding his way back out again through pictures that transition from bright colors to shades of gray and black and finally back to brightly colored pictures again.
- Soak up that vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to chronic depression in children and adults alike. Aside from spending time outdoors every day, eat plenty of vitamin D fortified foods (mushrooms, egg yolk, fish, etc.).
- Strive to keep your bedtime routine as consistent as possible. Fatigue definitely has a powerful effect on the body’s ability to regulate emotions. A child that is not well rested will definitely struggle to shake off persistent sadness or anxiety.
- Find an outlet…creative endeavors or exercise can be great outlets to fight off depression. According to idontmind.com, “Most of the time, we have our eyes on the end result and ignore the actual process of creating. But the process is where the benefits are. The process is where the healing is” (retrieved from idontmind.com/journal/6-creative-outlets-for-your-mental-health).
- Reach out for help. Talk to your child’s pediatrician or counselor. Additionally, working through a mental health issue in your child’s life can leave parents feeling incredibly isolated, which in turn has a detrimental effect on the parent’s mental health, compounding the problem. Reach out to friends and family, possibly seek out a local support group, etc. One example of such a group is a group that I moderate for The Lily Jo Project on Facebook. The Lily Jo Project is an international nonprofit that empowers children, teens, young adults, and the adults who work with this population to better their mental health. The group is called Kid’s Mental Health Lockdown Resources, and you can join here https://www.facebook.com/groups/kidsmentalhealthlockdownresources. We would love to have you! If nothing else, having a great support system to vent to and ask for ideas from will be beneficial.
Children’s Texts that Tackle Depression
- Meh by Deborah Malcolm
- The Color Thief: A Family’s Story of Depression by Andrew and Polly Peters
- The Princess and the Fog: A Story for Children with Depression by Lloyd Jones
- A Flicker of Hope by Julia Cook
- Catching Thoughts by Bonnie Clark
While depression in children can be overwhelming and scary for families, symptoms can be managed if parents are intentional about creating a healthy lifestyle, based on recommendations from your child’s medical team. Pediatricians, counselors, and parents can work together to create a plan of balanced nutrition, rest, and therapies that will benefit the child and minimize the stronghold depression can have on one’s life.
CDC. 2020. Anxiety and depression in children: Get the facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/anxiety-depression-children.html
IDontMind. 2020. 6 creative outlets for mental health. Retrieved from www.idontmind.com/journal/6-creative-outlets-for-your-mental-health