The National Mental Health Information Center reports that the number of children and families affected by mental, emotional and behavioral disorders is significant, estimating that one in five children has a mental health disorder that is identifiable and treatable. 

How Did This Happen?

If your child is exhibiting signs of depression, you may be asking yourself "How did this happen?" or "Why is this happening to us?" There is not a simple answer to this question, but years of research have helped identify the causes behind mental health disorders. These disorders are caused in children and adolescents by biological and environmental factors, or a combination of the two. The biological factors that influence depression and other mood disorders are genetics, chemical imbalances, or symptoms as the result of a head injury. Environmentally, the factors can include exposure to violence, stress, loss of a loved one, or other emotional trauma. 

Biological factors may not be prevented but environmental factors can, within reason, be controlled. For example, if a child is under constant stress and fear of personal injury by a loved one, removing the child from that situation can truncate the impact. Awareness is key in identifying these environmental triggers and doing everything possible to minimize them. 

Common Disorders

The United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that often times, a child has more than one mental disorder. Here is a list of some common ones:

  • Anxiety disorders (including obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder)  
  • Severe depression 
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder 
  • Learning disorder 
  • Conduct disorder 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Autism 
  • Schizophrenia 

Who Do You Turn To?

First consult your doctor and get a full physical examination, being sure to highlight the behaviors or tendencies that are causing you concern. Ask whether follow-up visits with a specialist are necessary, and find out who you should consult for further treatment or diagnosis. For instance, it may be suggested that your child visit a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worke,r or behavioral therapist.

A diagnosis will be arrived at much the same way it would be for an adult. Information on symptoms and behaviors may be collected from parents, caregivers, and teachers to get a more comprehensive view how your child is exhibiting these in their social setting. Then, appropriate recommendations for cognitive/behavioral therapy and possibly medication will be made.