Anxiety and Depression in Children
By Ramni Kortman-Bedi, Believe Energy
According to the Office of National Statistics, 4% of children suffer from an emotional disorder such as anxiety or depression, Girl Guiding has found that 63 per cent of girls aged 11-21 have experienced levels of stress. The BBC has found Children as young as five are being referred for treatment for depression and anxiety. Everywhere respectable sources have reported high levels of children suffering from anxiety, stress and depression.
Having had a child suffer from stress to the point where it caused him physical pain, I understand first-hand what it feels like for a parent to realise that their once happy vibrant child now has an emotional problem that the child does not understand, and has no idea how to rectify. I have four children and when the others are not it is hard to comprehend why one of them is suffering from emotional problems.
Problems as to why children suffer from stress, anxiety or depression may include bullying by other children or older people in responsibility, cyber bullying, unsettled home lives.
Due to the high stress of current day living and emotional situations children now find themselves suffering more from emotional outburst, anxiety, panic attacks, sleeping and eating issues, anger and aggression, not fitting in society norms, fear, hearing and seeing things they cannot explain, phobias, stress and depression. In our experience, some children may seem to suffer emotionally and carry the world on their shoulders but have nothing actually wrong in their life.
Symptoms may display as vocal outbursts and crying, over very small issues; socially withdrawn and hiding away from others; hiding their face; making up illnesses; anger and unreasonable changes in behaviour; separation anxiety; irritability or anger; continuous feelings of sadness, hopelessness; increased sensitivity to rejection; changes in appetite; changes in sleep, difficulty concentrating; fatigue and low energy; physical complaints (such as stomach-aches, headaches) that do not respond to treatment; reduced ability to function; feelings of worthlessness or guilt; impaired thinking or concentration and thoughts of running away, death or even suicide
Childhood depression is different from the normal “blues” and everyday emotions and learned behaviours that occur as a child develops. If the sadness becomes persistent, or if disruptive behaviour that interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork, or family life develops, it may indicate that he or she has a depressive illness. Keep in mind that while depression is a serious illness, it is also a treatable one.
When you realise your child is suffering, do not feel guilt or embarrassment about the issue. Your child needs help and this is about them, not you.
• The first thing you can do for your child is to talk to them. You must try and get to the root cause of the problem. Understand that this may be very difficult for them as they feel they may get into trouble if they tell, especially if it is another adult causing the problem. Do not trivialise the problem, as what may not seem important for you may be very important to them. They may find it difficult to speak to you, if so ask your child to write it out for you to read. You may need to ask some probing questions to get your child to open up. A lot of the time your child will say that they do not know what the problem is, but there is a problem. There may be a few problems. You may need to vocalise the problem for them if they are too young to do it themselves.
• Notify the school and ask for their advice and how they have found their child’s behaviour recently. The school are with your child every day and need to be made aware of the issue immediately. They can only help if they know. They should have strategies and specialised personal in place to help with such issues. However, in some cases, a change in geography for the child can solve the problem immediately, but still give your child time to recover from their ordeal.
• Visit your GP, and ask their advice. They are unlikely to prescribe drugs for your child but can offer practical advice or counselling.
• Let your child have some time off. A few days in a stable environment, just allowing them to be and have some space. You may feel pressurised to send them back to school, but those few days can be priceless, as they are more likely to open up at these times and feel that it is safe to show their true emotions instead of hiding them.
• Talk to others in your family home. Other siblings may not understand why your child is receiving so much attention, as they cannot see a physical problem and cannot comprehend an emotional problem. Try and make them understand that your child needs some space and try to give him/her a break at the moment.
• Sometimes you may need to fight the battle for them. Prepare to do this, as all children not only need to feel unconditional love but also need to feel supported, believed and respected. Don’t let your child down, even if others around you can’t see the problem. Follow your instincts; you will do the right thing for your child.
• Give your child space to catch up again with life. The beauty of children is they can recover relatively quickly in comparison to adults with a life time of issues to deal with. But give them time to find their feet again and come to some sort of vocalised solution/ending to the problem that they are happy with. Draw a line in the sand and move on, as you do not want this to become an issue that will cause them suffering into adult hood.
Children are taught to look after themselves physically with exercise and good food choices but they are rarely taught how to take care of themselves emotionally, which is equally important to their physical wellbeing. We at Believe Energy have created the ‘I AM IMPORTANT’ workshop to help every child, as well as the ones who are currently suffering now with emotional issues as stated above. For instance we can also help the quiet child in the class with her confidence, the boy being bullied by another and holds in all of the emotions inside, the bully with their insecurities, the child transitioning to a new school/class or moving abroad, the child that gets tummy aches when they are nervous. Or the child who seems happy and confident but as a proactive measure both the child and the parent are given tools they can fall back on when the time calls for it.
Your child’s emotional wellbeing can affect their behaviour, ability to learn, self worth, confidence and overall happiness. By dealing with your Child’s emotions PROACTIVELY, you can PREVENT, stress, anxiety, anger, phobias, depression and behavioural issues from occurring throughout their life.
To support all children, The Believe Energy Children’s ‘I AM IMPORTANT’ workshop offers them practical tools and techniques to deal with their emotions independently thus building confidence, resilience and maintaining their happiness.
The upcoming Believe Energy Children’s ‘I Am Important’ Workshop is on April 19th, 1-4pm, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
Please visit www.believeenergy.com or call 07588593108 for more information.