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10 Steps to Help Children and Adolescents with Depression

Margarita Woodbury, M.D.


Depression is a serious mental health condition that can affect children and adolescents. It is important to recognize the symptoms of depression in young people and seek appropriate treatment. Here are some steps that I recommend parents and caregivers can take to help children and adolescents who are struggling with depression. 1. Recognize the signs of depression Depression in children and adolescents can manifest in different ways than it does in adults. Common symptoms may include irritability, sadness, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you notice any of these symptoms in a child or adolescent, it is important to seek professional help such as by a child and adolescent psychiatrist such as myself.


2. Seek professional help Treatment for depression in children and adolescents may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. It is important to work with a professional who has experience working with young people. I am an experienced child and adolescent psychiatrist and can help determine the best course of treatment for the individual and provide ongoing support. I use an eclectic blend of the possible types of therapies. 3. Support healthy habits Encouraging healthy habits can also help improve the symptoms of depression in children and adolescents. This may include regular exercise, healthy eating habits, appropriate supplements and adequate sleep. Eating a good source of protein at each meal with plenty of vegetables and fruit and other complex carbohydrates is important. Setting and achieving small goals can also help improve mood and increase feelings of self-worth and confidence. 4. Provide a supportive environment A supportive, empathic, and understanding environment can also be helpful for children and adolescents with depression. This may include validating their feelings, encouraging them to express themselves, and providing a safe space for them to talk about their experiences. It is important to avoid criticism, blame, and contempt, and instead focus on providing support and encouragement. Lowering high expectations and lowering overall overall high expressed emotions or "EE' is important. 5. Encourage social support Encouraging social support can also be helpful for children and adolescents with depression. This may include spending time with friends and family, participating in activities they enjoy, and seeking out supportive peers or mentors. It is especially helpful to spent regular one on one time with the depressed child or adolescent such as using Stanley Greenspan's ideas about 'Floor Time."It is also important to help them build a network of supportive individuals who can provide encouragement and validation. Educational support is also helpful. 6. Monitor progress Monitoring progress is important for ensuring that treatment is effective and adjustments can be made as needed. It is important to communicate regularly with mental health professionals such as myself, and to track any changes in mood or behavior. This can help ensure that the individual is receiving the support they need to manage their depression. 7. Consider Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a form of therapy that has been found to be effective in treating depression in children and adolescents. DBT focuses on teaching individuals coping skills and strategies to manage their emotions, improve their interpersonal relationships, and develop a sense of self-acceptance. DBT is often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy or medication, and can be adapted to meet the needs of young people. DBT emphasizes the importance of mindfulness, which involves being present in the moment and accepting one's feelings without judgment. Learning to meditate is also important. DBT can be a helpful tool for children and adolescents with depression, as it provides them with practical skills and strategies they can use to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Families can also be taught these skills to reinforce the new knowledge at home.

8. Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another form of therapy that can be effective in treating depression in children and adolescents. CBT focuses on identifying negative patterns of thinking and behavior and replacing them with more positive and productive ones. This type of therapy can help individuals develop coping skills and strategies to manage their symptoms, and can be adapted to meet the needs of young people. Mindfulness and meditation can also be integrated into this type of therapy.CBT is often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy or medication, and can provide individuals with practical skills they can use to manage their depression and improve their overall well-being. 9. Consider Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a form of therapy that can be effective in treating depression in children and adolescents. This type of therapy focuses on exploring the underlying emotions and experiences that may be contributing to a person's depression. Through this exploration, individuals can gain insight into their emotions and behaviors, and develop new ways of coping and managing their symptoms.In addition, play therapy and using art with younger children helps the child express and process their feelings through displacement. Psychodynamic psychotherapy can be adapted to meet the unique needs of young people, and can provide them with a safe and supportive space to explore their thoughts and feelings. 10. Consider Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of therapy that can be effective in treating depression in children and adolescents. EMDR focuses on helping individuals process traumatic experiences and negative emotions that may be contributing to their depression. During EMDR, individuals are guided through a series of bilateral taps (some use sounds or eye movements) while recalling their traumatic experiences. This process can help them process, integrate and desensitize them to the negative emotions associated with those experiences and develop more adaptive healing coping skills. EMDR can be a helpful tool for children and adolescents with depression who have experienced trauma or have unresolved emotional issues. Depression in children and adolescents can be a challenging condition to manage, but with the right treatment and support, it is possible to improve symptoms and help young people lead fulfilling and healthy lives. If you have further questions please call me.




About me


Margarita Woodbury, M.D. is an integrative child, adolescent, adult psychiatrist & psychotherapist located in Walnut Creek, CA and serving patients across the San Francisco, Bay Area.


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