Depression is often thought of as an adult mental health issue. But children can suffer from depression too, with the incidents increasing with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.2 percent of children ages 3 to 17 have diagnosed depression. Within the 12 to 17 age group, that figure increases to 6 percent.
Several lifestyle factors may increase a child’s risk of depression. Here are three ways to safeguard your child’s mental health.
Protect their sleep.
Not getting enough sleep has been linked to depression and lowered mental health. Depending on their age, school-aged children and adolescents (ages 6 to 17) need between 8 to 11 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Ensure they get daily exercise.
Research published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise suggests that lack of physical activity may contribute to a child’s risk of depression. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Children & Adolescents recommends children age 6 to 17 get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous daily exercise. When possible, exercise outdoors. Time spent in nature may provide a variety of mental health benefits, such as lowering stress levels.
Limit their screen time.
Kids who spend seven or more hours daily on screens (outside of schoolwork) are twice as likely to have depression or anxiety than kids who get only an hour, according to a study published in “Preventive Medicine Reports”. To create a healthy media plan for your family, use the Media Time Calculator at healthychildren.org.
When feelings of sadness occur on a daily basis, it may be a sign your child is depressed. Talk with your child’s doctor about getting them the mental health help they need. Concerned your child is at risk for suicide? Get help immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or texting the Crisis Textline at 741741.