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New School Year, New Fears for Many Kids
For most kids, the first day of school is generally not met with a lot of enthusiasm.
For some children, though, it’s a source of profound anxiety.
From fears about fitting in, bullying, school violence, academic pressures, and playing sports to attending a new school and facing unfamiliar challenges, a new school year can usher in a host of paralyzing fears.
And while adults often are unaware or dismissive of these anxieties, the fears are very real – and can be debilitating or even fatal.
Depression affects as many as one in every 33 children and one in eight adolescents, according to the federal Center for Mental Health Services. And suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States among 15-24 year-olds.
In fact, Colorado conducted a Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2005. The results were alarming: Twenty-five percent of the students reported feeling depressed, sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row at some point in the past year.
Even more startling, 14 percent seriously considered attempting suicide during that past 12 months. A staggering seven percent attempted suicide one or more times during the past 12 months. (Source: Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network)
So what can parents do?
• Talk to your child about how he or she is feeling.
• Educate yourself about depression. The more you know, the better the position you are in to help your child.
• Know the signs of depression, and note the duration, frequency and severity of troubling behavior.
• If your child is struggling with any combination of the signs of depression for more than two weeks in different settings (e.g., at home, at school, on the playground), consult a mental health professional or pediatrician.
• Discuss all available treatment options with your child’s doctor, and carefully weigh all the risks and benefits associated with each treatment. A comprehensive treatment plan may include psychotherapy, ongoing evaluation and, in some cases, medication. You and your child, if possible, should fully participate in the development of a treatment plan.
• Talk to other families in your community or find a family network organization to help you better understand how depression can affect your child and your entire family.
• Know that treatment works and that your child will get better.
Resources from the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council
Thanks to Scott R Thoemke, the executive director and chief executive officer of the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network, who contributed to this article.