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It is normal to have sad thoughts.  However, sometimes children and adolescents have such extreme feelings of sadness or irritability that they begin to have a hard time in school, with family, and with friends.  Of course, such symptoms can lead to worry and frustration for friends and family members alike.


Currently, there are several forms of disorders related to low mood:

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Dysthymic Disorder
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder

Depression tends to run in families. However, youths’ environments also appear to play an important role, as symptoms of depression can develop after stressful life events such as medical problems, deaths, or break-ups. Though your child’s feelings of sadness may go away over time, untreated depression may also get worse and lead to thoughts about suicide.  Fortunately, several treatments for depression have been proven to work. If your child seems to be more sad or irritable than usual, you may consider taking him/her to a medical doctor or psychologist for an evaluation and treatment recommendations.



Young people with depression may experience some or all of these symptoms everyday, for most of the day:

  • Feeling or appearing sad, tearful or irritable
  • Not being able to have fun doing things that were fun before
  • Eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
  • Sleeping much more or much less than usual
  • Moving around very quickly or very slowly
  • Having a lot less energy than usual
  • Feeling like he/she is “no good” or guilty
  • Having a hard time thinking, concentrating, or remembering
  • Having thoughts about hurting or killing him/herself

Since young children are not always good at expressing their sad thoughts, symptoms of irritability, increased boredom, and physical complaints should be considered as important clues of depression.



  • 16% of youth served by the Hawaii Department of Health, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division have a depressive disorder
  • About 5% of children and adolescents in the United States suffer from depression
  • About 7% of middle school students in Hawaii report that they have made a suicide attempt
  • Many times, kids with anxiety or disruptive behavior problems are at a higher risk for developing depression



  • How can a parent determine if their child has depression? Dr. Anne Marie Albano, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry at Columbia University and the Director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Columbus Circle, provides an in depth discussion on one of the most common child and adolescent disorders. Topics include helping parents understand how youth and adult depression differ, emotional or behavioral changes to look out for to tell if your child is depressed, the types of treatments that work, the parent’s role in the treatment of depression, how a parent can tell if they are getting an evidence-based treatment, and risk factors for depression. Please click here to watch the video.
  • Concerned about whether your child is at risk for suicidal behavior? Dr. Cheryl King, Director of the Youth Depression and Suicide Prevention Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, discusses the signs for increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, the importance of getting a risk assessment/evaluation, the promising research about the treatments that work for these youth, and the possible causes of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Please click here to watch the video.
  • How does a parent help their child who got diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder? In this video, Dr. Mary Fristad, Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology and Nutrition at the Ohio State University, gives parents insight into the life and treatment following a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. She discusses possible medications and interventions, the different evidence-based and non-evidence-based treatments, the type of professionals to seek help from, the impact of this disorder on a youth’s life, and the causes of this disorder. Please click here to watch the video.


See What Works:

Stimulus Control

Activity Scheduling
Maintenance/Relapse Prevention
Problem Solving

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [CBT]
CBT With Medication
CBT With Parents Included


Information for this site has been obtained from the following resources: