May 4 is Childhood Depression Awareness Day

April 30, 2004
Failing to provide appropriate mental health services puts kids at risk.

On May 4, Childhood Depression Awareness Day, thousands of children, families, physicians and advocates will be working in communities nationwide to get the word out that childhood depression is real, common and treatable.

"Depression affects as many as one in every 33 children and one in eight adolescents but less than a third receive appropriate care," says Michael Faenza, MSSW, president and CEO of the National Mental Health Association. "By failing to provide services for children with mental health problems, we jeopardize their social and academic development and put them at risk for more serious problems down the line."

Consequences of untreated depression can include social isolation, difficulties at home and school, and an increased risk of suicide. The symptoms of depression may look different in youth than in adults, and as a result, are often overlooked or misunderstood.

Warning signs of depression in a child or adolescent include:

* Sad, hopeless or irritable feelings
* Falling behind in school or earning lower grades
* Losing interest in friends or activities usually enjoyed
* Avoiding people; wanting to be alone all of the time
* Talking about suicide or death
* Hurting other people or animals; damaging property
* Major changes in eating or sleeping habits
Once a child experiences an episode of depression, he or she is at risk of having another episode within the next five years. Promoting mental health awareness and knowing the warning signs of mental health problems are essential to improving and saving young people who may be risk for depression and other mental illnesses.

Childhood Depression Awareness Day was established in 1997 by a mother whose child had depression. Experts on childhood depression and other children's mental health issues are available for telephone interviews throughout May is Mental Health Month.

The National Mental Health Association is the country's oldest and largest nonprofit organization addressing all aspects of mental health and mental illness. With more than 340 affiliates nationwide, NMHA works to improve the mental health of all Americans through advocacy, education, research and service.
# # #