Recognizing Depression in Children and Adolescents

*Military OneSource does not provide medical counseling services for issues such as depression, substance abuse, suicide prevention or post-traumatic stress disorder. The article below is intended for informational purposes only. Military OneSource can provide referrals to your local military treatment facility, TRICARE or another appropriate resource.

We all want to be sure that our children are healthy and thriving.  As parents, you know that your children may face challenges, like deployments or another move to another new community.  Sometimes even the stress of school can be a bit overwhelming.  Most of the time, you are probably able to help your children work through those challenges. There are times, however, when you may need to reach out for additional support. Depression can be a very serious issue for children and adolescents, but it is treatable if you know where to go for help. The following information will help you recognize depression in your child and learn what services are available to help.

Symptoms of depression

  • Frequent vague physical complaints, such as headaches and stomachaches, that don't seem to have a physical cause
  • Poor performance in school, including a sudden drop in grades or frequent absences
  • Efforts to run away from home or talking about running away
  • Loss of interest in activities that your child usually enjoys
  • Lack of energy or feeling exhausted
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Lack of interest in playing with friends
  • Increased irritability, anger or hostility
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide — If your child talks about suicide or death, contact your child's primary care provider immediately.

Ways to find help

Military support programs offer service members and their families confidential, non-medical counseling designed to address issues such as relationships, stress management, adjustment (returning from deployment, for example), and grief and loss. However, non-medical counseling is not appropriate for depression and other serious mental health issues.

If you think your child may be experiencing depression, you can find the support and resources you need through the local military treatment facility, TRICARE or through a medical counseling provider in your civilian community. Your child's primary care provider should be able to give you a referral for medical counseling services near your home. You can also speak with a Military OneSource consultant at 800-342-9647 for an appropriate referral.


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