Treatment of depression in children and young people falls into
two categories: psychological treatments (psychotherapy or
counselling - talking treatments); and physical treatments
(medication). Psychological treatments should be suggested first.
For mild depression, referral to a specialist may not be necessary
and the healthcare professional may advise 'watchful waiting' -
monitoring the progress of the young person accompanied by sensible
advice about diet, exercise and encouraging the child to take part
in normal activities.
If there is no progress or if the depression is more severe,
psychological treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy and
interpersonal therapy will be suggested. Other psychological
treatments that may be suggested include family therapy and more
intensive individual child psychotherapies. If psychological
treatments are not bringing about improvement, or if the depression
is more severe, then, in teenagers, antidepressant medication will
be suggested (and considered even in children) in addition to the
psychological treatment. Where medication is prescribed, children
and young people should be monitored carefully in the first few
weeks for adverse effects.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
has produced guidelines on the treatment of depression in children
and young people for healthcare professionals, children and young
people themselves, parents and carers (see the NICE website).