Two thirds of parents miss signs of depression in kids

Young women feeling stressed and depressed. Representative Image

Up to two-thirds of parents struggle to spot signs of depression in their children, according to a poll conducted in the US.

Researchers from the University of Michigan noted that though the majority of parents say they are confident of recognizing depression in their middle or high school-aged child, two-thirds acknowledge barriers to spotting specific signs and symptoms.

According to the poll based on responses from 819 parents with at least one child in the middle, junior high, or high school, 40 per cent of parents struggle to differentiate between normal mood swings and signs of depression, while 30 per cent say their child is good at hiding feelings.

"In many families, the preteen and teen years bring dramatic changes both in youth behaviour and in the dynamic between parents and children," said Sarah Clark, co-director of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

"These transitions can make it particularly challenging to get a read on children's emotional state and whether there is possible depression," Clark said in a statement.

A third of parents polled said nothing would interfere with their ability to recognize signs of depression in their child, researchers said.

"Some parents may be overestimating their ability to recognize depression in the mood and behaviour of their own child. An overconfident parent may fail to pick up on the subtle signals that something is amiss," Clark said.

The poll also suggests that the topic of depression is all too familiar for middle and high school students.

In the poll, one in four parents said their child knows a peer or classmate with depression, and one in 10 said their child knows a peer or classmate who has died by suicide.

"Our report reinforces that depression is not an abstract concept for today's teens and preteens or their parents," Clark said.

"This level of familiarity with depression and suicide is consistent with recent statistics showing a dramatic increase in suicide among US youth over the past decade. Rising rates of suicide highlight the importance of recognizing depression in youth," she said.

Clark said parents should stay vigilant in spotting any signs of potential depression in kids, which may vary from sadness and isolation to anger, irritability and acting out.

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