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Psychiatry, Psychosomatics & Psychotherapy

What Can Parents Do With Depressed Children?

Parents can offer their child space for conversation. It is important to be patient and to focus on listening. Parents should be as cautious as possible with tips and comments such as: “Cheer up, you'll be fine” or “Just pull yourself together”. These statements usually put the person affected under even more pressure or he becomes more aware of the hopelessness, because the problem lies in the fact that those affected are currently unable to do so. The child cannot help it, even if it sometimes seems to outsiders that it can simply free itself from its situation. The fact that it cannot do this is precisely its illness.

Parents can ask whether the child sometimes feels lonely or unhappy, whether tears often flow, whether there are only a few things that are happy or whether they have ever thought of killing themselves. If any of these questions are answered in the affirmative, parents should definitely consult a child and adolescent psychiatrist. An actual distinction between a normal mood and an illness can only be made by specialists. In general, a visit to the doctor should not be delayed too long. Parents should listen carefully if thoughts of suicide are voiced and in this case offer to go to a child and adolescent psychiatrist with the young person. It is also often the case that young people in particular do not want to talk to their parents about their problems. In these cases, the adolescents should not be urged to “tell what is wrong with them”, but rather professional help should be sought.

If parents or contact persons feel unable to discuss problems and feelings with the depressed or suicidal person, they should give the children the opportunity to contact a child and adolescent psychiatrist. In many larger cities there are also child and youth counseling, a school psychology service and addiction counseling centers. A helpline for children and adolescents ( can also be reached Monday to Friday between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.: telephone number 0800 - 111 0 333 or 116 111. For parents, the "number against Kummer eV" is also nationwide Telephone conversation, advice and information offer set up, which provides fast, competent and anonymous support: Parents' telephone: 0800 - 1 111 0 550

Technical support: Prof. Dr. med. Michael Kölch, Berlin (DGKJP)