Depression: A guide for parents and carers
Encouraging your child to visit your GP and speak about how they are feeling can pave the way for a recovery plan from depression. Therapies and treatments vary depending on individual circumstances, and it’s important that your child finds the right fit for them.
If the depression is mild, your GP may first recommend ‘watchful monitoring’. This is a period, prior to commencing treatment with antidepressants, where the situation is closely monitored for signs and symptoms to assess its severity. A two-week follow-up appointment will likely be arranged to see how things progress.
If there is no improvement in two to four weeks, or if your GP thinks the depression is moderate or severe, the next step will be a referral to a psychological service for ‘talking therapy’. Evidence-based talking therapies recommended by NICE include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy and Family Therapy.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
One of the most effective and frequently used treatments to combat depression, CBT has been proven to help a wide range of emotional and psychological health conditions in adults, young people and children.
CBT encourages us to look at how we think about a situation and how this affects the way we feel and act. These feelings and actions, in turn, affect how we think. The therapist and young person will work together to explore unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviours.
How to access therapy
- If your child is under 16, they will be referred to the local CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). Run by NHS teams of doctors, nurses, therapists and psychologists, all experts in working with young people, practitioners from CAHMS meet in a variety of community settings, including GP surgeries, schools, clinics and even at home.
- If your child is over 18, they will usually be referred to adult services. This may be a local ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT) service, providing evidence-based talking therapies such as CBT to support a range of mental health problems.
- If there is a long wait for accessing local services, your GP should keep in touch with you and monitor the situation. If this does not happen, contact your GP and make regular appointments to make sure that you and your child receive support in the interim.
- You may choose to find your own therapist, and if so make sure that they are registered and accredited by a professional body such as the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (BABCP). Be prepared to see more that one person to make sure that you find the right therapist for your child’s situation. Do also check that they are used to working with children and young people. Sometimes private health insurance will pay for therapy.
- Your child may be able to visit a school or university counsellor. Local voluntary groups also sometimes offer counselling, but first make sure that they are registered and accredited by a professional body, such as the Health Professions Council (HPC), United Kingdom Council Psychotherapy (UKCP) or British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and experienced in working with children and young people.
Your GP is unlikely to suggest medication initially if the depression is mild. This decision may be reviewed, however, if your child’s symptoms worsen.
Psychological help may be enough on its own to treat the depression but sometimes medication will also be prescribed if the depression is severe.
If you are unhappy with what your GP suggests, you can ask again for more help in line with the NICE guidelines, or ask to see another doctor for their advice. The number one priority is always your child’s safety and wellbeing.
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