Low mood (depression)

It is normal for children and young people to have ups and downs in their mood. It is normal for them to feel sad when things are not going well. For example, they may feel low in response to parental separation, exam stress or falling out with friends.

Feeling sad or low can also happen for no obvious reason.

Depression is when a child or young person's negative feelings do not change or go away with time. They become overwhelming and stop them from doing or enjoying things they would normally do.


Things you may notice

 Your child may:

  • Withdraw, avoiding friends or social situations
  • Find it hard to concentrate or lose interest in schoolwork
  • Not want to do things they normally enjoy
  • Feel irritable, angry or frustrated
  • Feel tearful, miserable, lonely or hopeless
  • Feel empty or numb
  • Be very self-critical, or feel less confident
  • Sleep more or less than normal
  • Eat more or less than normal
  • Feel tired or have less energy
  • Show less interest in looking after themselves, for example washing
  • Want to self-harm
  • Experience suicidal thoughts

If your child is experiencing any of these, it does not necessarily mean they are depressed. It is important to speak to your GP as a first step so that you can explore what is going on together.

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What can you do?

  • Reassure your child that it is ok to feel low or down at times. It is a normal reaction to life changing events for example parents separating or a death in the family
  • Let them know you have noticed they don’t seem happy at the moment
  • Listen and provide emotional support
  • Encourage them to talk about how they feel, either to you or another trusted adult
  • Talk to them to find out if there is anything in particular making them feel this way
  • Talk to your child about who is in their support circle
  • Explore together what they would find helpful
  • Encourage them to think about what they enjoy doing
  • Keep a routine and have nice things planned. Even if they do not feel like doing an activity, trying to do it will help improve their mood
  • Help them do things that support their wellbeing (healthy eating, exercise, get some fresh air daily, drink water, get enough sleep, spend time with loved ones, reduce screen time)
  • Break things down into small steps. Do one step at a time so tasks are not overwhelming
  • Let them know these feeling won’t last forever and there is support to help them feel better
  • Seek professional help if you're worried about your child's mental health and things aren't getting better. Speak to your child's school, GP or CAMHS

Supporting your child who is struggling with depression can be difficult. It is important to also take care of yourself. It is ok to ask for help when you need it and share your worries.

There is more information on resources below and on Help I'm in Crisis, CAMHS, and looking after yourself pages.

Further Resources

  • NHS Mood zone information on mental health
  • Video from Hampshire CAMHS on supporting young person with depression in crisis
  • Calm campaign against living miserably
  • Harmless for self harm and suicide prevention
  • Papyrus prevention of young suicide

Books to check out of the library:

  • 'Stuff That Sucks' by Ben Edley
  • 'Am I Depressed? And What Can I Do About It?' by Shirley Reynolds and Monika Parkinson
  • 'Beyond The Blues A Workbook To Help Teens Overcome Depression' by Lisa Schab
  • 'Stopping The Pain A Workbook For Young People Who Cut and Self-Injure' by Lawrence Shapiro