The degree to which a child feels low or depressed appears out of context or disproportionate to the reason why they might be feeling sad. Episodes of low mood might be more frequent or prolonged and cause the child distress or might have some mild impact on their ability to cope with everyday life such as going to or coping at school, seeing friends or taking part in leisure activities.
These are challenges that some children experience and may need support with.
Examples of situations that may cause / contribute to a child feeling low in mood or depressed:
- Being routinely teased or bullied (including being or feeling left out or excluded)
- Grief or loss (including romantic relationships ending)
- Witness or experience of conflict (at home or school)
- Change and uncertainty (such as family breakdown)
- Family and relationship stressors (parent / sibling ill-health, financial or social stressors)
- Academic pressures / demands including exam stress and worry about the future
Please note, there are occasions when there is no apparent trigger / cause / contributory factor as to why a child may be experiencing episodes of low mood / depression. A child can still be low in mood without clear reason.
What you might see or a child might report
As well as the features in getting advice the following might also be present:
- Disrupted sleep (difficulties getting to or staying asleep, waking very early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep)
- Seeking physical or verbal seeking reassurance or wanting to withdraw from social contact and communication
- Resistance to doing things; appearing unmotivated and disinterested
- Poor personal hygiene (not washing or changing clothes regularly)
- Emotionally labile; frequent changes of emotion, more sensitive (e.g., irritable, upset, confused)
- Thoughts or urges to harm self or some thoughts to end life; some infrequent or superficial (not requiring medical attention) self-harm may occur.
If families or professionals are concerned that a child is experiencing any of the issues above support is available, this includes:
Support in schools
All primary schools have a named Mental Health Lead and within schools there is a range of pastoral support available. Schools also work with other professionals in order to gain advice and guidance on how best to support children’s social and emotional needs. These services may include the Portsmouth Educational Psychology Team, the Multi Agency Behaviour Support Team and the Inclusion Outreach team.
Within many schools, pastoral support may be provided by Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs)
ELSAs are teaching assistants in schools who have been trained by Educational Psychologists to work with children who are showing a wide range of emotional or social needs for example; anxiety, low self-esteem, problems with anger etc. Through individual (and small group) support programmes ELSAs help children to develop their social and emotional skills.
Support will also include Mental Health Support Teams (MHST’s) who are available in all primary schools.
MHST’s support children and young people with mild to moderate mental health problems. The approach they use in primary schools focuses on supporting parents with cognitive behavioural strategies to use with their child to overcome difficulties with low mood/depression. Time is spent on reflecting on what works best for the family and guiding parents in adapting strategies to meet their child’s individual needs as well as providing opportunity for practice.
The school should make contact with MHST for consultation and support for MHST referral where appropriate.
For professionals such as GP’s they should encourage families to link in with the school-based support described above.
Children can also be referred to Hampshire Youth Access (HYA) for play-based counselling. A referral can be made by a GP, CAMHS or MHST.
The CAMHS Single Point of Access is also available for consultation and advice.
Available Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm
Contact: 0300 123 6632.