Depression is a continued low mood state involving loss of interest and enjoyment that can’t be ‘snapped out of. It can follow bereavement, parental divorce or another stressful life event. Sometimes it is triggered by certain illnesses, hormonal disorders/imbalances (such as those caused by birth control pills), tension or stress, chemical imbalances in the brain, thyroid disorders, poor diet and lack of exercise, and by premenstrual and postnatal effects. Sometimes there is no apparent reason for it. Long-term anxiety makes children prone to depression and significantly increases the risks of suicide.
Depression affects social functioning. Children might be unable to express themselves effectively and smile or talk naturally. They might have trouble concentrating and remembering things. They can feel isolated and alone, thinking that no one understands them, and they can feel detached from other people, unable to experience feelings of care others have for them. They can feel sad, hopeless, worthless and useless and might think about death and suicide. They might have bursts of anger or impatience and feel anxious, tired and lethargic.
They might sleep and eat more or less than usual, be unable to motivate themselves, not care about washing and keeping clean, lose interest in things they were previously interested in, be tearful, overwork to dull their mind and have a multitude of physical symptoms such as backaches and headaches.
Some children harm themselves by cutting, carving, burning, branding, scratching and head banging as a way to cope with overwhelming emotions and to transform their emotional distress into physical pain. Although they might feel guilty and ashamed about harming themselves, they cannot help it.
Children experiencing such difficulties should see a doctor as a matter of urgency.
Discuss the Following Questions With the Class:
What is depression? What causes it?
Are some people more prone to depression than others?
How does depression affect the way someone behaves?
How does depression affect someone’s thoughts?
What is the main risk of untreated depression? (Suicide.)
Do you know someone who has depression? How does it affect them?
What can be done about depression?
With the children’s help, compile a list of things they can do to help guard themselves against becoming depressed.