Depression is more than feeling sad or down for a few days – it is a real illness with very real symptoms.

Studies have shown that about 4% of children aged 5-16 in the UK are anxious or depressed. Depression can be a very serious issue for young people, but the good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.

So many of the challenges that young people face can impact on mood, including relationship difficulties, falling out with friends, bullying, difficulties at home, hormone changes and low self-esteem, so it is important to distinguish between low mood and signs of a more serious mental health difficulty when establishing whether someone is clinically depressed.

Symptoms of depression

When you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days. Depression can affect people in different ways, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe, but typical symptoms are a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, reduced energy/increased tiredness and low mood. Further common symptoms include:

  • Reduced concentration and attention
  • Reduced self-esteem and confidence
  • Ideas of guilt
  • Bleak and pessimistic views of the future
  • Ideas or acts of self-harm or attempted suicide
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Reduced appetite
  • Agitation
  • A feeling of being slowed down (psychomotor retardation).

Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety. Find out more about depression and how CAMHS and others can help below.

If you think you might be depressed, talk to your parents or another adult you trust. It's also important to discuss your symptoms with your GP. Your doctor can establish the type of support you need, and refer you to local services such as CAMHS to get you on the road to recovery. For advice about who to speak to, and how to have conversations about your mental health, take a look at our section on Getting the Support You Need.

Treatment for depression can involve a combination of lifestyle changes, talking therapies and medication. Recommended treatment will be based on whether you have mild, moderate or severe depression.

If you have mild depression, your doctor may suggest waiting to see whether it improves on its own, while monitoring your progress. This is known as "watchful waiting". They may also suggest lifestyle measures such as exercise and self-help groups.

Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy are often used for mild depression that isn't improving or moderate depression, and you might sometimes be prescribed antidepressants.

If you are referred to CAMHS for support with depression, we will work with you to establish the best way to help you. For moderate to severe depression, a combination of talking therapy and antidepressants is often recommended. If you have severe depression, you may benefit from intensive specialist talking treatments and prescribed medication.

If you would like more information about depression and its symptoms, the following websites can help:

Young Minds - advice and self-help tips about depression

NHS - information from the NHS about clinical depression

Childline - information about depression and feeling sad

Royal College of Psychiatrists - information about depression for young people

MindEd - free educational resource that includes training on depression