It is normal for children and young people to have ups and downs in their mood. Their mood can be affected by a range of issues, and it is common for them to feel low when things are not going well for them. They may feel low in response to particular situations, such as parental separation, exam stress or falling out with friends.
Sometimes, a person's mood can remain low for a prolonged period of time or they may feel down most of the time. This is commonly referred to as depression. Depression describes anything from regularly experiencing low mood to a more severe mental illness, clinical depression.
Some young people are more prone to low mood and depression than others, due to a number of different factors. For example, teenage girls are more likely to experience depression than boys, and depression has a tendency to run in families.
Some things you might notice when a young person is struggling with low mood are:
Most people have experienced things described in the list above at some point. If you notice any of these things in a young person, it's important to think about how often they are happening and if they have occurred over a long period of time. It's also important to remember that these changes in behaviour don't necessarily indicate that a young person is experiencing depression.
If you are concerned that a young person is also having thoughts of self-harm, please go to the section on self-harm.
Some people will find it easy to identify with a young person experiencing low mood, whereas others will find it more difficult to think about these feelings. If you haven't experienced low mood yourself, it can be very frustrating trying to understand why they can’t just ‘get over it’. It is important to think about your own feelings to ensure you respond helpfully to their needs.
Mikeysline, website with Text Line and Bee Appy App: www.mikeysline.co.uk
Moodcafe, self-help website from NHS Fife: www.moodcafe.co.uk/for-children-and-young-people/feeling-sad.aspx
Moodjuice, workbook from NHS Forth Valley: www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/Depression.asp
Please contact your health visitor, school, GP or other professional involved with your family.
Please consult with other professionals involved or the named person, and to help identify the most appropriate support, go to: www.nhsfife.org/choosingtherightsupport