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6-year-olds with depression: Why aren’t psychiatrists shocked

On World Mental Health Day, mental health care providers point to the urgent need to address that fact that the onset age of depression and mental health disorders is coming down.

punjab Updated: Oct 10, 2018 21:22 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
depression,psychiatrists,world mental health day
A child starts to get stressed because of “education pressure, parental conflicts, sexual violence or biological vulnerability.(istock)

When a child as young as six years old talks about stress or depression, it does not shock psychiatrists as this has become all too common.

On World Mental Health Day, mental health care providers point to the urgent need to address that fact that the onset age of depression and mental health disorders is coming down.

At the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), new cases of adolescents (10 to18 years) were 1,150 in 2017, with 25% aged less than 10; 55% were in the age group of 10 to14 years, and 20% aged between 15 to 18.

Only 712 such cases were recorded in 2014.

Parents seek help if children are:
  • Hyperactive
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Introverts
  • Irritable
  • Have anger-related issues
  • Get tearful on minor matters

Similarly, at the psychiatry department of the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Sector 32, the number of children visiting the psychiatry department doubled in three years. From 112 in 2015 the number shot up to 272 in 2018.

“The number reflects a very small proportion of adolescents who are seeking professional help. A large number of them are silently suffering and not coming forward because of ignorance or stigma,” said Dr Priti, in charge of the Child and Adolescent Clinic, GMCH-32

‘Only severe cases reach PGI’

Dr Sandeep Grover, a psychiatrist, agreed, adding that only the very severe cases reached PGIMER. Many more should be seeking help, he said.

“There are different disorders which occur in different age groups. For instance, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders usually develop at the second decade of life (15 to 25); depression and anxiety usually start at the late third decade of life (25 to 40),” he said.

The age of onset for many disorders, mainly depression, was going down. “Quite frequently, we are seeing it in children as early as six years.”

Stress could be the causative factor. A child starts to get stressed because of “education pressure, parental conflicts, sexual violence or biological vulnerability. All this impacts mental health, making the child more vulnerable to mental illness,” Grover said.

Symptoms of depression in children are irritability, anger, aches and pains, decreased appetite and disturbed sleep.

Remedial measures parents can take, Grover advised, included “spending time with their children and being friendly with them. They must not impose their wishes on the child. Too much use of social media should be restricted.”

First Published: Oct 10, 2018 10:40 IST