- Depression is Not “Just a Phase” for Children
- Depression’s Impact During Childhood
- Getting Professional Help For Childhood Depression
- Addressing Childhood Depression Naturally
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Fight Depression
- 5 More Ways to Fight Childhood Depression
When someone struggles with depression, life can feel painful and difficult. Getting out of bed can feel like a big chore. Basic tasks such as brushing your teeth and making breakfast feel hard. 
Because we are all unique, we experience the symptoms of depression differently.
That said, the most common symptoms include sadness, irritability, not wanting to engage in activities, and feeling hopeless and worthless. Some people who are depressed think about suicide. 
These symptoms take their toll on sleep, eating, focusing, and much more. 
Anyone can suffer from depression, including children. Kids might mask that depression or express it differently than adults do. 
Unfortunately, we have few effective options to address childhood depression.  One promising approach is to address the nutrient deficiencies that underlie this condition. 
Researchers have especially studied the omega-3 fatty acids in wild-caught seafood, which show promise to help relieve depression. Eating wild-caught seafood several times a week provides these critical fatty acids.
Depression is Not “Just a Phase” for Children
Everyone feels a bit down sometimes. But depression is very different from “feeling blue.”
Parents might be tempted to dismiss those feelings with “What do children have to be depressed about?” Even today, mental illness is taboo. Talking about childhood depression can be uncomfortable. 
But depression is very real, with damaging repercussions. Left untreated, childhood depression can lead to stronger, more prolonged depression and even suicide.  Depression can impact your child’s health right now, but it can also lead to poor health later in life. 
Some children are more susceptible than others. If you have a family history of depression or other mood disorders, your child or teen is more likely to struggle too. Likewise, if your child has a chronic or severe medical condition, he or she has a higher likelihood of depression. 
But depression can impact any child, regardless of family history or other factors. Not addressing this condition can lead to worse problems down the line.  In fact, depressive disorders create the highest burden of disease across all medical conditions for children and teens. 
Depression’s Impact During Childhood
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3.2 percent of children have diagnosed depression. That’s about 1.9 million people ages three to 17. 
For some children, depression overlaps with other problems including anxiety and behavior problems. 
The number of kids with depression has increased over time: From 5.4 percent in 2003 to 8.4 percent in 2011–2012. As kids get older, depression can become more common. Adolescents between 12 and 17 are much more common to have depression than children ages six to 11. 
Gender also plays a role. Depression significantly impacts in boys under 10. By age 16, however, depression is more common in girls. Females between ages 12 and 17 are three times more likely to undergo a first depressive episode compared with males. 
There is never one specific thing that creates depression. Instead, many things can contribute, including:
- Physical health
- Life events
- Family history of depression
- Alcohol and drug abuse
What should you look for to determine whether your child is depressed? Sadness, feeling hopeless, and mood changes are the most common signs. Beyond that, children can display depression in many ways.
Some of the most common signs include:
- Being irritable and/ or angry
- Aches, pains, restlessness, and other physical symptoms, especially with younger children
- Not being interested in social or pleasurable activities
- Problems concentrating
- Changing sleep patterns
- Appetite or weight changes
- Showing hopelessness or low self-worth
Getting Professional Help For Childhood Depression
Please don’t dismiss these and other symptoms as a passing mood. If they occur for at least two weeks, consult your healthcare practitioner. He or she can determine any potential physical reasons for these symptoms and ensure your child receives proper treatment. 
Worth repeating: Because every child and teen is different, these and other symptoms will differ for every person. Kids may display different symptoms when they’re, say, at the dinner table and when they’re with their peers. Some children might appear to function fine.
For most kids with depression, however, you’ll see a noticeable change in social activities, academic performance, and appearance. Children over 12 might also start using drugs or alcohol. 
Difficult as addressing these things can be, getting your child the right help for depression will help him or her grow healthy physically and emotionally as a teen and into adulthood. 
Before being diagnosed with depression, a healthcare professional will undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation to rule out medical or other conditions including nutrient deficiencies and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 
How your healthcare practitioner addresses depression will depend on things including how severe symptoms are.  He or she might propose Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/ or antidepressant medications. 
Typically, this approach will be similar to addressing depression in adults: Some sort of counseling, medication, or a combination of these two. For mild symptoms, some experts recommend counseling first, and then medications if things don’t improve. 
If your healthcare practitioner suggests antidepressants, carefully discuss the pros and cons, including potential warning signs you should watch for if your child takes these medications. 
While medications such as antidepressants can help in some situations, they carry major side effects sometimes.
Antidepressants carry a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning about a risk of increased suicidal thinking and behavior for some people under 25. These medications can also trigger anxiety, agitation, hostility, restlessness or impulsive behavior. 
Never, ever modify or discontinue any medications or other specific instructions without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.
Addressing Childhood Depression Naturally
No parent or child should ever feel hopeless about depression. You have numerous strategies to help your child fight depression.
What goes on the end of your child’s fork can dramatically impact their mood. Research shows how children eat can play a role in the risk for developing depression. 
Minimize or eliminate the foods and drinks that can contribute to depression. Too much sugar especially can trigger or worsen mood disorders.  Be aware that added sugars can creep into even the healthiest diets, such as condiments like ketchup. 
Sugar can even hide in some “healthy” foods and drinks. Whole fruit is healthy for most children, but fruit juices are essentially sugar water.  Processed foods such as luncheon meats sometimes contain sugar and other fillers such as gluten.  Sensitivities to food intolerances such as gluten can contribute to depression. 
Replace these processed foods, fast food, and sugar-sweetened beverages with whole, nutrient-rich foods. Specific nutrients in food, such as vitamin D, can impact mental health. 
Our Core Plan creates the optimal foundation to fight depression and other diseases. These foods offer the right amount of protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to keep you and your child healthy and happy.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Fight Depression
One of the most-studied nutrients for depression are the omega-3 fatty acids found in wild-caught seafood.
People with depression sometimes have low levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two predominant omega-3 fatty acids that play important roles in brain health. 
Today, we don’t eat enough of these omega-3s. Instead, most of us eat far more omega-6 fatty acids in vegetable oils and processed foods. 
Researchers believe this shift — eating more of these inflammatory fats and fewer anti-inflammatory fats — contribute to modern-day health problems including obesity, cancer, and mental disorders including depression.
Your brain needs the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids to work well. If you struggle with depression, you may not have enough of these omega-3s for your brain to work properly. 
Eating more fish reduces the relative risk for child and teen depression. Research shows a direct relationship between omega-3 fatty acids deficiency and depression. 
When you replenish levels of these omega-3s, you can reverse those deficiencies.  Omega-3s can benefit depression in several ways. They can easily travel through brain cells and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are also anti-inflammatory, which can help lower depression. 
Along with eating the right diet and getting sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, these five well-researched lifestyle strategies can help you and your child better handle depression.
- Get your kids involved with meals. Studies show that the more often you have family meals, the fewer depressive symptoms children experience. Make dinner a priority at least one or two nights every week. Keep the conversation and mood lively.  Whenever you can, get your kids involved setting the table and making meals. You’ll find plenty of delicious recipes for mealtime here.
- Create a routine. Depression can make your child feel helpless. Creating structure and goals can both help here. Encourage small steps, such as washing or putting away the dishes. Maintaining a consistent routine can help your child feel more empowered and improve their feeling of self-worth. 
- Exercise regularly. Consistent exercise can improve your mood. In fact, exercise can be as effective as prescription drugs to manage depression.  Exercise should feel challenging but fun. That might involve team sports, rollerskating, or dancing. Anything that gets your child committed to moving more counts.
- Get good sleep. When you don’t sleep well, you’re more likely to struggle with depression. Depression, in turn, can mess up your sleep.  Younger children (ages three to six) need 10 – 12 hours of sleep nightly. 7-to-12-year-olds need 10 – 11, and teens 12 – 18 need eight or nine hours every night.  To ensure optimal sleep, you might create an electronics curfew and enforce lights out by a certain time. Talk with your healthcare practitioner if your child struggles with depression and has trouble sleeping.
- Encourage social interaction. About 80 percent of people under 18 experience loneliness. When your child doesn’t feel connected or able to interact with others, he or she might feel more depression symptoms.  Some children are more social than others. If they don’t feel like engaging with friends, organize family gatherings and help them feel more connected.
Finally, consider chiropractic care. The mind-body approach that chiropractors use can help address many things that impact depression and other mood disorders.  Your chiropractor can also design a food and lifestyle protocol that helps your child better manage depression.