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Treating Depression in Teens and Children

Just like depressed adults, depressed children and teens need to get help, and the two main methods of treatment are psychotherapy and medication. But there are distinct differences between treating adults and children in most medical fields, and psychiatry is no exception.
  
Although many studies have shown antidepressant medications to be effective in teens and children, these drugs can also have some dangerous, unintended side effects in a small number of teens. A review by the FDA found that the average risk of suicidal thoughts in depressed teens and children who are taking an antidepressant was 4%, twice the placebo risk of 2%. The FDA responded to these concerns in 2004 by requiring that drug manufacturers place a "black box" warning about these risks on the package inserts that come with antidepressants.
  
What does this mean for your depressed child or teen? Of course, treatment decisions should be made (with your input) by a qualified psychiatrist, preferably one who is trained to care for children. Many experts believe that antidepressants play an important role in treating depression in children and teens — but they must be used with caution. They shouldn’t be viewed as harmless pills to be prescribed flippantly; monitor him or her for suicidal thoughts or tendencies, especially in the first few months of taking medication, when the risk is thought to be the greatest.

Medications should not be deemed a dangerous therapy but they should be used cautiously and are often considered a last resort, if a child or teen does not respond to other treatments, such as play therapy or counseling. Before seeking an anti-depressant, it is usually wise to pay close attention to how your child or teen is thinking and feeling. Invest (both time and money) in psychotherapy.

Dealing with suicidal remarks

Children and teenagers are by nature more impulsive than adults, their emotions less tempered by experience. Research suggests that regions of the brain that govern judgment do not develop completely until later in life. All too often in this age group, suicidal thoughts translate into action. Never ignore or brush off comments about suicide or even such sweeping, dramatic statements as "I wish I was dead" or "I wish I’d never been born." Instead, follow through by talking to your child about them.
  
Perhaps these sentiments reflect nothing more than an isolated, angry outburst or hyperbole in the middle of an argument. But you can say, "Tell me what you’ve been thinking" or "Are you telling me about your frustration, or do you really feel like ending your life?" If the answers raise any concerns, if your child always refuses to engage in the conversation, or if he or she seems to exhibit signs of depression or mania, call his or her pediatrician for advice or schedule and appointment with Dr. Messenger for an
Intervention Consultation or Psychotherapy.

Treatment for

Depression in Kids