November 19, 2019
1 min read

Barriers may hinder parents from recognizing child's depression

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Sarah J. Clark

A C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health demonstrated that one in four adolescents in middle and high school knows a peer with depression, and one in 10 knows a peer who has committed suicide.

In addition, the results showed that although most parents reported feeling confident that they could recognize the signs and symptoms of depression in their children, two-thirds reported barriers that could hinder recognition.

“I think these findings show that many parents are feeling uncertain,” Sarah J. Clark, MPH, codirector of the Mott poll, told Healio Psychiatry. “They are very aware that youth depression is common, and they view themselves as fairly knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms. At the same time, they realize that it might not be easy to recognize depression in their own child — perhaps from hearing or reading about teens who died by suicide, where the parents did not know their child was suffering.”

Clark and colleagues obtained survey data from 819 American adults who were parents of at least one child aged 0 to 18 years living in their household. The majority of parents rated themselves as very confident (42%) or somewhat confident (48%) in their ability to recognize potential depression symptoms in their child, and 10% were not confident. Regarding barriers to recognition, parents reported several — hard to tell normal ups and downs from depression (40%); youth is good at hiding feelings (30%); we don’t talk about feelings much (14%); don’t spend much time with my youth (7%); and not sure what signs of depression are (4%). Further, 70% of parents think schools should screen all students for depression, with sixth grade as the most preferred age to begin depression screening.

“Child health providers may use this as an opening to a conversation with both parents and teens around the signs and symptoms of depression, any depression screening that is done in the primary care setting and where to find more information,” Clark said. – by Joe Gramigna


Mott Poll Report. Recognizing youth depression at home and school. Accessed Nov. 19, 2019.

Disclosures: Clark reports no relevant financial disclosures.