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Ben Vitiello on Childhood Depression

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Dr. Ben Vitiello, Child and Adolescent Treatment and Preventive Intervention Research Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, talks about the symptoms of childhood depression and treatment options.

Transcript

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Time: 00:03:26 | Size: 3.32 MB
Speaker: Ben Vitiello, M.D. (NIMH)

Description: Dr. Ben Vitiello, Child and Adolescent Treatment and Preventive Intervention Research Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, talks about the symptoms of childhood depression and treatment options.

Announcer: Only in the past two decades has depression in children been taken very seriously. Because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is just going through a temporary phase...or suffering from depression.

Dr. Ben Vitiello is with the Child and Adolescent Treatment and Preventive Intervention Research Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health and an expert depression in children.

Dr. Vitiello: We don't have a marker, we don't have a test or lab work that tell us if the child is depressed or if the individual is depressed. All of this is based on clinical interview putting together the information...from the child, from the parents...sometimes from a teacher.

Announcer: Research tells us one to two percent of all pre-pubescent children in the United States meet the criteria for depression. However...

Dr. Vitiello: After puberty it increases quite a bit. And we- depends on the study but we estimate it is between four and six percent of adolescents. At some time- at some point- during a twelve month period, we'll get an episode of depression

Announcer: And for reasons that aren't fully understood, twice as many girls than boys meet depression criteria. Parents and guardians of all children should be aware of warning signs

Dr. Vitiello: We talk about depression when that mood...either irritable or depressed or both...becomes so predominant that becomes the monotone...the dominant tone of the mood of that individual. Meaning, you would describe the individual during the day to be constantly complaining about things or being sad.

Announcer: The best action step for parents and guardians who see these warning signs...is to consult with the child's pediatrician or mental health professional. Ignoring symptoms can lead to serious issues...

Dr. Vitiello: Because depression is a risk factor for a lot of negative outcomes including poor academic work, difficulties with the peer group that is so important in adolescents-involvement in drugs and substance abuse and alcoholism-trying to overcome moodiness and anxiety. It's a risk factor for suicide...so, depression should not be ignored.

Announcer: Both therapy and medications have been used to successfully treat children diagnosed with depression. But here again it's very important to gauge the mood and reaction of the child...

Dr. Vitiello: When you start treatment with anti-depressants you should be very careful at possible changes in mood- negative changes, so, parents should be careful in the first weeks after they start treatment to see if the child, for instance, becomes agitated, nervous, unable to sleep, irritable or have any way, any changes in the mood that is not in the direction that you would like.

Announcer: Dr. Ben Vitiello on NIMH radio...