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Deepika Padukone’s therapist Anna Chandy reveals common signs of depression in children

Childhood depression is far more complex than many of us think. Actor Deepika Padukone’s therapist, Anna Chandy, lists warning signs that your child may be struggling with depression. Plus, what causes mental health problems in children.

fitness Updated: Jan 30, 2019 09:51 IST
Sanya Panwar
Sanya Panwar
Hindustan Times
Depression,Deepika Padukone,Anna Chandy
Mental health problems are common in both adults and children. Remember, mental health disorders are manageable, but it’s crucial to spot changes in behaviour and habits first. (Unsplash)

An increasing number of Indians experience symptoms of depression or some other mental health problem. But adults aren’t the only ones who struggle with mental health issues: Children deal with them, too. Although we tend to assume that only adult men and women suffer from depression, anxiety, and other disorders, the reality is that more children are affected than we thought. Numerous studies have shown that rates of depression in Indian children and teens are on the steady rise. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report in 2017, about one in four children in the age group of 13-15 years in India suffer from depression, which affects 86 million people in South-East Asia region. Unfortunately, symptoms of depression, anxiety, and many other mental and behavioural issues go undetected; and only a small percentage of children and teens get necessary treatment.

Depression, anxiety, and many other mental issues that affect children are manageable, but it’s only possible with accurate diagnosis and effective treatment measures. However, mental health issues may often go undetected in children, reveals actor Deepika Padukone’s therapist, Anna Chandy. “Children must be encouraged to express their feelings as this will allow parents to address any grievances or problems that they may be going through,” Anna Chandy, chairperson of The Live Love Laugh Foundation’s Board of Trustees, says. In 2015, Deepika Padukone started The Live Love Laugh Foundation, an initiative to end the stigma against mental health and spread awareness.

Children aren’t as effective as adults in expressing how they feel. Sure, they may know what being happy or sad means, but mental health problems include a spectrum of emotions they can’t define or explain. Therefore, Anna Chandy says, “It is the responsibility of each parent to ensure that their children receive a positive, encouraging and nurturing environment, both at home and school, as this will improve their physical and mental health.”

What causes depression and mental health problems in children?

Mental health issues aren’t passing moods, they don’t occur due to trivial situations. In many cases, causes of depression, anxiety, and other problems is a combination of different factors, such as, physical health, life trauma, environment, and even family history and genetics play a role. According to Anna Chandy, common risk factors for mental, emotional, and behavioural disorders in children and teen include genetics, major life events, childhood trauma, etc. “Children whose parents suffer from depression are more likely to develop this condition than those whose parents have better mental health. Apart from this, children hailing from chaotic and dysfunctional families, or those who indulge in substance abuse are more prone to it. Traumatic life incidents can also trigger the symptoms,” she says.

What are the common signs of depression and mental health problems in children?

Remember, mental health disorders in children are manageable, but it’s crucial to spot changes in behaviour and habits first. So, how do you recognise the signs? Depression in children is more difficult to identify because the symptoms are not easily observed; It hinders normal socialisation, and negatively impacts school and family life, says Anna Chandy. “Some symptoms in children that all parents must look out for include sadness, hopelessness, and sporadic mood changes. They are also prone to irritability, anger, vocal outbursts, crying, social withdrawal, fear of rejection, low concentration, worthlessness, and feeling of guilt. The physiological symptoms include deficient or excess appetite and sleep; stomach aches and headaches that do not respond to medicinal treatment; and fatigue,” she says.

Just because mental health problems go undetected in children and teens, it doesn’t mean all signs are entirely invisible. It’s important to pay attention to the way your child behaves and notice potential changes, says Anna Chandy. “Childhood is the most important stage in an individual’s life and sculpts how we behave as adults. Having a mental illness is a highly sensitive issue and must be treated with compassion and care. It is imperative that parents take even the slightest warning signs seriously and address the issue at the earliest,” she says.

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First Published: Jan 30, 2019 09:50 IST