Depression Often Starts in Childhood
New research shows that depression starts early in life.
Depression rates are rising and researchers and clinicians now
say that depression often begins in childhood.
Kathleen P. Hockey is a licensed social worker who has also
suffered from depression. As a parent, Hockey wanted to keep her own children
safe from the illness. After a few years of reading virtually everything she
could find on the topic of depression, she realized that very little had been
written for the general public on childhood depression. Hockey stepped in to
fill the void with her book, Raising Depression-Free Children: A Parent's
Guide to Prevention and Early Intervention.
There was a time, says Hockey, when the prevailing philosophy
was that kids couldn't become depressed. That's no longer the case.
"Approximately one of 11 children experience some form of depression by the
time they are 14 years old," says Hockey. "Further, if childhood
depression is not prevented or caught early and properly treated, the risk for
relapse is very high, with each successive episode growing more
Kids do suffer from mental health problems, explains
Kathy HoganBruen, PhD, senior director of prevention for the National Mental
Health Association (NMHA). "Childhood depression is very real and very
common, but also very treatable," says HoganBruen.
In fact, depression affects as many as one in every 33 children
and one in eight adolescents, according to the Federal Center for Mental Health
There is no one thing that causes depression in children,
according to the NMHA's Children's Mental Health Matters campaign. A family
history of depression, life stresses such as losing a parent, divorce, or
discrimination, and other physical or psychological problems can all contribute
to the illness. Children who have been abused, neglected, have experienced
other traumas, or suffer from chronic illness are also at a higher risk for
Depression in children often occurs along with other mental
health problems such as anxiety and bipolar or disruptive behavior disorders,
says David Fassler, MD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the
University of Vermont College of Medicine, and co-author of Help Me, I'm
Sad: Recognizing, Treating and Preventing Childhood and Adolescent
Depression. Adolescents who become clinically depressed are also at a
higher risk for substance abuse problems.