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Depression in Children and Teens (cont.)

Prevention

It is difficult to prevent a first episode of depression. But it may be possible to prevent or reduce the severity of future episodes of depression (relapses).

  • There is some evidence that if a child receives cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in a group setting, it can help prevent or delay the onset of depression in a child or teen whose parent has a history of depression (which puts the child at greater risk for becoming depressed).7
  • Your child must take medicines as prescribed, keep counseling appointments, eat a balanced diet, and get regular exercise. For more information, see the topic Physical Activity for Children and Teens.
  • Make sure that your child has a good social support system, both at home and through teachers, other family members, and friends who can provide encouragement and understanding.
  • Learn to recognize early symptoms of depression, and seek immediate diagnosis and treatment if they occur.
  • Some schools provide educational materials and group therapy opportunities to those at high risk for depression, such as those who have family conflict or problems with peers.

Home Treatment

Do everything possible to provide a supportive family environment. Love, understanding, and regular communication are some of the most important things you can provide to help your child cope with depression.

In addition to having a positive home life, staying in professional counseling, and taking medicines as prescribed, good lifestyle habits can help reduce your child's symptoms of depression. Encourage your child to:

  • Get regular exercise, such as swimming, walking, or playing vigorously every day. For more information, see the topic Physical Activity for Children and Teens.
  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs, nonprescription medicines, herbal therapies, and medicines that have not been prescribed (because they may interfere with the medicines used to treat depression).
  • Get enough sleep. If your child has problems sleeping, he or she might try:
    • Going to bed at the same time every night.
    • Keeping the bedroom dark and quiet.
    • Not exercising after 5:00 p.m.
  • Eat a balanced diet. If your child lacks an appetite, try to get him or her to eat small snacks rather than large meals.
  • Spend time with supportive friends.
  • Be hopeful about feeling better. Positive thinking is very important in recovering from depression. It is difficult to be hopeful when you feel depressed, but remind your child that improvement occurs gradually and takes time.

If you notice any warning signs of suicide (such as aggressive or hostile behavior, excessive thoughts about death, or detachment from reality) seek professional help immediately by calling either your child's doctor, a professional counselor, or a local mental health or emergency services. Callif you feel your child is in immediate danger.

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