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One out of every ten high school students report feeling depressed.

Depressive Disorders in Children and Adolescents
One out of every ten high school students report feeling depressed. Clinical depression is more than being temporarily "down" or "blue." It is a physical illness involving a chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression affects the total person - behavior, mood, and thoughts as well as one's physical health, academic or work performance, and the ability to handle everyday situations. The gender ratio (female: male) of major depression among pre-adolescent children is 1:1 and among adolescents it is 5:1.
The most common method of suicide is by the use of firearms. It is estimated that for each completed suicide, ten attempts are made. Although more boys than girls commit suicide, at a ratio of 4:1, girls make more suicide attempts.


  • Sad, empty mood 
  • Loss of interest in ordinary activities 
  • Sleep and/or eating disturbance 
  • Psychomotor retardation or agitation 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Difficulty making decisions 
  • Hopelessness, worthlessness 
  • Decreased school performance 
  • Suicidal ideation, attempt or plan 
  • Irritability 
  • Fatigue 
  • Feelings of aloneness 
  • No plan for the future 
  • Acting out 
  • Truancy 
  • Feelings of guilt 
  • Skipping school, dropping clubs 
  • Change in appearance 

Causes Depressive illnesses are biological brain diseases that appear to be genetically-based and tend to run in families.
Depression is a disorder of mood caused by a chemical imbalance in the frontal lobe of the brain. Factors that can influence the onset of a depressive episode include a stressful environment, low self-esteem, pessimistic thinking, and being easily overwhelmed.

Treatments A full physical examination, intake of family history, and psychological evaluation should be completed by a mental health professional or family physician before any treatment takes place.
Medications, such as Prozac, Zoloft, Norpramine, Pamelor, and others, are primary choices of treatment for those diagnosed with severe depression. Medication provides for a quicker recovery and is the most cost-effective treatment as well.
Psychotherapy is often used in combination with medication therapy and may take the form of play therapy, family therapy, interpersonal therapy, behavior therapy, and/or cognitive therapy. Psychotherapy is often the primary mode of treatment for those diagnosed with mild and moderate forms of depression.

Prevalence of Major Depression

  • Preschoolers 0.3 percent 
  • Pre-adolescent children 1 .8 percent 
  • Adolescents 4.7 percent
Suggested Reading
  • What 's Wrong with My Child?, by Gattozzi, Ruth 
  • Coping With Mental Illness in the Family, by Hatfield, Agnes 
  • Is Your Child Depressed?, by Herskowitz, Joel 
  • Helping Your Depressed Child, by Kerns, Lawrence 
  • Children and Adolescents With Mental Illness/A Parent's Guide, by McElroy, Evelyn 
  • High Times/Low Times: The Many Faces of Adolescent Depression, by Meeks, John

This information was provided by:

National Alliance on Mental Illness-Iowa
5911 Meredith Drive, Ste. E
Des Moines, Iowa 50322-1903
Phone: (515) 254-0417
            (800) 417-0417