More and more children and teens are being diagnosed with depression. This is not a case of the “blues” that everyone faces now and then. These children feel alone. They are struggling to function and overcome feelings of hopelessness. It disrupts every aspect of their lives from their school work and extra curricular activities to their relationships with peers and family.
It is not uncommon to hear that preteens are on depression or anxiety medication and we are constantly bombarded by news of the latest teen suicide. According to NPR the suicide rates in adolescents are continuing to rise every year with numbers tripling in the last 15 years for young girls aged 10-14. More kids in that age bracket (middle school) are dying from suicide than from motor vehicle crashes. As of 2014 11.3 percent of adolescents (12-17) reported at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
If anything these stats tell us not to mess around when it comes to our children and the symptoms of depression. What should you look for?
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of hopelessness/sadness
- Drop in grades/poor performance in extracurricular activities
- Withdrawing from friends/family
- Fits or anger of crying
- Increased sensitivity
- Thoughts of suicide
If you think your child is depressed I would not hesitate to consult a doctor. Even if you hate pharma drugs and like natural remedies. You need as much support as you can get. Adolescent depressions affects the whole family. Hopefully you have a doctor with common sense who will try and find any physical reasons your child might be suffering and one who is open to trying a variety of options before you resort to brain altering medications. If you don’t have that doctor right now…start looking. In the meantime, here are some places to start…
Natural Treatments for Children and Teens with Depression
Talk To Your Child ASAP – Is something going on in their life that is stressing them out such as bullying, divorce, rejection, body image, or heaven forbid something like sexual abuse? Now is the time to start talking to them and get to the bottom of things like their life depends on it.
Change Their Diet – Most depression meds work by forcing an increase in serotonin levels. A diet of serotonin rich foods can help, so stock up on fatty fish and omega 3 supplements. Vitamin B6 is an important co-factor for serotonin so buy poultry eggs, spinach, turnip greens, nuts, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, and seeds. Adding fermented foods also helps as they manufacture those essential B vitamins that help with boosting your mood.
Exercise – Physical activity is a huge mood booster. If your child is inactive or they recently withdrew from physical activities they were previously engaged in, then they are missing out on the wonderful benefits that exercise can have on mood. Exercise boosts serotonin levels and endorphins, which act like natural anti-depressants, so get them exercising. Sign them up for some sort of activity or take them with you on walks, hikes, or to the gym together.
Ditch the Caffeine – No caffeinated sodas…they reduce serotonin levels.
The Sunshine Vitamin – Vitamin D is essential to happiness and mental well being. Being vitamin D deficient can cause you to feel sad and depressed…hence the reasons so many suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the winter. Make sure your child is getting plenty of sunshine and perhaps consider a light therapy box.
Massage Therapy – Take your child in for a massage regularly. Studies have been done that show that massage decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases serotonin and dopamine. Go for a massage together a couple times a month and spend some time together.
Reduce Stress – After you talk and discover some of the reasons for the depression you can help them try to problem solve and eliminate some of their stressors. Meditation can also help them overcome some of those stressful feelings.
Reduce Sugar – Sugar stresses the body and weakens immune response. Since stress can be a key cause of depression, the sugar levels need to go way down.
Magnesium – Get them a magnesium spray and ask them to use it daily to increase magnesium levels. Most of us are deficient and magnesium deficiency has been linked to depression.
Get them a Pet – If they don’t already have a pet, consider getting one for them. An animal friend can be wonderful therapy. So can volunteering at an animal shelter or rescue.
If your child is depressed these are some things you can start doing now, while you start to establish a support network.