The hidden signs of depression in children every parent needs to know about.

Primary aged children can suffer depression yet many parents struggle to spot the signs of a mental health problem in their children, a national poll has found.

Research released from The Royal Children’s Hospital’s Child Health Poll found only a third (35 per cent) of more than 2000 parents surveyed were ‘confident’ in recognising the signs of a mental health problem in their child.

A further third of parents believed a child’s mental health problems might be best left alone to work themselves out over time; and less than half (44 per cent) felt confident they would know where to get help if their child experienced social, emotional or behavioural difficulties.

Director of the RCH Poll, paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes, says children can develop many of the same mental health difficulties as adults but they often manifest in different ways, making them harder to recognise.

Frequent tearfulness and crying is not normal in children and seeking professional help sooner rather the later is really important, Dr Rhodes says.

Ongoing physical complaints can also be a sign of social or emotional problems in children and teenagers.

“Even if parents are unsure, there is no harm in having a conversation with their GP or school counsellor about any emotional, social or behavioural difficulties they think their child may be experiencing,” Dr Rhodes added.

“Ignoring signs that may indicate a child is in need of help can result in the problem becoming more entrenched and much harder to treat.”

It's important to know the signs. Image: Getty.


* Sadness a lot of the time

* Ongoing worries or fears

* Obsessions or compulsive habits that interfere with everyday life

* Ongoing problems getting along with other children or fitting in at school, kinder or child care


* Aggressive or consistently disobedient behaviour, such as frequent yelling, kicking, hitting, biting or damaging things around them

* Frequent physical complaints, such as headaches or tummy aches

* Sleep problems, including nightmares.


* Having trouble coping with everyday activities

* Seeming down, feeling things are hopeless, being frequently tearful or lacking motivation

* Having trouble eating or sleeping

* Difficulties with attention, memory or concentration, a drop in school performance, or suddenly refusing to go to school

* Avoiding friends or withdrawing from social contact

* Complaints of frequent physical pain, such as headache, tummy ache or backache

* Being aggressive or antisocial, for example, missing school, getting into trouble with the police, fighting or stealing

* Losing weight or being very anxious about weight or physical appearance

* Repeated use of drugs or alcohol

* Self-harming behaviours.

Australian readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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