Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. That’s a student dropping out every 26 seconds – or 7,000 a day that leave school.
Among students who do not complete high school, over 20% prematurely end their education because of early-onset psychiatric disorders, with mood disorders being the most common.
Identifying risk factors for depression can help identify children who may be struggling with the onset of depressive disorders. And early detection can interrupt the trajectory of a mood disorder, and help keep children in school.
Risk Factors for Depression
In early childhood, boys and girls appear to be at equal risk for depressive disorders. But when double digits birthdays bring the onset of adolescence, girls are twice as likely as boys to develop depression.
Diagnosis of depression in children and teens is not a one size fits all experience. Furthermore, there are no tests given which will positively say that an individual will develop depression, much less pinpoint the causes. What we do know is that studies have shown that certain risk factors elevate the chances of depression developing in children. Some of the most recognized ones risk are:
I See These Risk Factors in My Child. Now What?
Talk to your child. Be present and ask your child about his/her feelings and the things happening at home and at school.
Create a safe and open environment at home. Make sure your home is a space that will limit judgment or criticism about what your child is expressing.
Collaborate with your child. Ask if there are ways you can help. Is there something that can be done at school? How can we make sure teachers and the school understand your child’s needs? Should a learning disability evaluation be performed? Are there issues at home that need to be talked about?
Contact your pediatrician. Make sure your child is in good physical health. Sometimes, medical problems can cause depression, like undiagnosed diabetes, anemia or hypothyroidism. Once this is ruled out, and your child is in good health, an appointment for a mental health evaluation should occur.
Find a mental health professional. Be sure that the clinician is a specialist in mood disorders in children. A proper diagnosis will help target treatments for your child’s unique needs.
Protective Factors that Help Minimize Depression
Once you’ve identified that your child is experiencing a depressive disorder, there are evidence-based factors that will help reduce drop out rates. Here are a few to incorporate into your life.
Promote good health. The basics for good mental health include being mindful about good food, healthy sleep, exercise. Show your child how to be resilient by modeling these behaviors.
Understand child development. Take time to learn the stages of development for your child. Understand what he or she may be dealing with socially, physically and academically.
Offer unconditional support. This protective factor is enormously important. Helping your child feel loved, supported and encouraged will help reduce feelings of depression. A positive parent-child bond is invaluable for good mental health and academic success.
Psychotherapy. Help your child learn social-emotional problem solving by having him or her work with a mental health professional. A special focus on academics and planning for a healthy future will bolster your child’s school success. If necessary, find a therapist for yourself to help navigate the journey you’re on.
Communicate often. It’s vital that all parties involved in the care and treatment of your child communicate often. Be it weekly or monthly, having conferences with teachers, therapists, parents helps ensure that depressive symptoms are at bay and academic success is continuing.