Online guide helps parents recognize child depression

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

DEAR ABBY: Seeing a child you love struggle with depression is such a helpless feeling. Parents wonder how to talk to them as they withdraw from the people and activities that used to bring them joy. You just want them to feel better again.

Many times, parents tell themselves itís just a phase their child will grow out of, but one in five teens is affected by depression. Itís important for parents to know that children even younger can become depressed, and that girls are twice as likely as boys to experience it. Depressed kids are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs and are at greater risk for attempting suicide.

To help concerned parents reach out to their hurting children, has created the free online-only Kids and Depression guide at The guideís sound, compassionate advice helps parents, grandparents and teachers recognize symptoms and risk factors in young people. It explains treatment options, including counseling and medication. And it also includes age-appropriate information about depression that parents can share with their children, elementary age through college.

Abby, thank you for the love you show your readers, and for sharing this potentially lifesaving guide with them. -- NANCY TYLER, SENIOR EDITOR, USA.GOV

DEAR NANCY: Youíre welcome. Iím glad you wrote because I receive many letters from worried parents and depressed young people. I know the online guide will provide important information they will find useful.

Risk factors for depression in young people include stressful life events, such as a family memberís divorce or death, bullying, trouble with school or friends, low self-esteem, or a disability or chronic illness. Symptoms of depression that last two weeks or more are significant. They may include sensitivity to criticism and outbursts of anger, sadness, headaches or stomachaches, changes in sleep or eating habits, lower grades and withdrawal from people and activities.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015, 3 million kids aged 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Because, as you stated, depression can be a significant factor in suicide attempts, the guide provides information to help parents recognize the warning signs of suicidal thoughts in their children.

If you think your child might be suicidal, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling (800) 273-8255. It offers confidential help 24 hours a day.

DEAR ABBY: Should each spouse give an anniversary gift to the other, or is it solely up to the man to arrange for the special occasion and gift-giving? -- SOON-TO-CELEBRATE IN ILLINOIS

DEAR SOON: An anniversary is not a surprise party. When the special occasion arises, celebrating shouldnít be the responsibility of just one spouse. The arrangements can be made by whomever is better at doing it, but gift-giving should be a two-way street.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.