I was fortunate enough to be invited to Reading University this week to attend a presentation on Anxiety and Depression in Children and Young People by Professor Shirley Reynolds. There were two presentations, one aimed at parents and carers and the other, which I attended, was for teachers and other professionals working with young people. The event was very well attended which was excellent but on the flip side it highlighted to me the growing concern regarding anxiety and depression and the increasing numbers of young people experiencing it.
The presentations looked at the differences between anxiety and depression (A&D) and how they can go hand in hand but actually need to be treated in different ways. Anxiety usually starts in the early years and depression follows later on. One in ten children can suffer with A&D at some point in their development. Excessive anxiety needs to be picked up and this can be identified when:
- Fears grow out of proportion
- Fear persists even when the threat is absent
- Children avoid or stop doing things they enjoy in life
Depression is more difficult to spot and can often be missed. Core symptoms are:
- Long term low mood/irratibility (2 weeks or more)
- Sleep problems
- Change/lack of appetite
- Suicidal thoughts/tendencies
- Low opinion of life
- Low energy
- Feelings of failure in life
A&D children will always focus on the negative bias, they feel they are less capable and the future is not exciting. Their A&D often gets overlooked because they present as quiet and well behaved children who are not disruptive.
Avoidance of their fears will certainly prolong their problems. To enable young people to overcome their fears, parents, carers and teachers need to:
- Encourage independence and problem solving
- Effectively question young people when they ask for re-assurance and invite them to expand what they have already done for themselves (coaching them to achieve success)
- Encourage curiosity
- Use praise when necessary and don’t overdo it
So what predicts A&D?
- Biology/Genetics – can run in the family
- Environment – life events, triggers, learning
- Relationships – can be too protective
There are lots of resources out there to help parents and teachers work with A&D, some of these are:
MindEd – Elearning programme specifically for teachers/carers/police/social workers
Overcoming Your Child’s Fears and Worries (Book by Cathy Creswell and Lucy Willetts)
Feel free to contact me with regards to coaching young people with Anxiety and Depression.