Parent's Guide to Depression

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Therapies and treatment

Encouraging your child to visit your GP and speak about how they are feeling can pave the way for a recovery plan from depression. Therapies and treatments vary depending on individual circumstances, and it’s important that your son or daughter finds the right fit for them.

Watchful monitoring

If the depression is mild, your GP may first recommend ‘watchful monitoring’. This is a period, prior to commencing treatment with antidepressants, where the situation is closely monitored for signs and symptoms to assess its severity. A two week follow-up appointment will likely be arranged to see how things progress.

Talking therapy

If there is no improvement in two to four weeks, or if your GP thinks the depression is moderate or severe, the next step will be a referral to a psychological service for ‘talking therapy’. Evidence-based talking therapies recommended by NICE include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy and Family Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

One of the most effective and frequently used treatments to combat depression, CBT has been proven to help a wide range of emotional and psychological health conditions in adults, young people and children.

CBT encourages us to look at how we think about a situation and how this affects the way we feel and act. These feelings and actions, in turn, affect how we think. The therapist and young person will work together to explore unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviours.

How to access therapy

  • If your son or daughter is under 16, they will be referred to the local CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). Run by NHS teams of doctors, nurses, therapists and psychologists, all experts in working with young people, practitioners from CAHMS meet in a variety of community settings, including GP surgeries, schools, clinics and even at home.
  • If your son or daughter is over 18, they will usually be referred to adult services. This may be a local ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT) service, providing evidence-based talking therapies such as CBT to support a range of mental health problems.
  • If there is a long wait for accessing local services, your GP should keep in touch with you and monitor the situation. If this does not happen, contact your GP and make regular appointments to make sure that you and your child receive support in the interim.
  • You may choose to find your own therapist, and if so make sure that they are registered and accredited by a professional body such as the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (BABCP). Be prepared to see more that one person to make sure that you find the right therapist for your child’s situation. Do also check that they are used to working with children and young people. Sometimes private health insurance will pay for therapy.
  • Your son or daughter may be able to visit a school or university counsellor. Local voluntary groups also sometimes offer counselling, but first make sure that they are registered and accredited by a professional body, such as the Health Professions Council (HPC), United Kingdom Council Psychotherapy (UKCP) or British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and experienced in working with children and young people.

Medication

Your GP is unlikely to suggest medication initially if the depression is mild. This decision may be reviewed, however, if your child’s symptoms worsen.

Psychological help may be enough on its own to treat the depression but sometimes medication will also be prescribed if the depression is severe.

If you are unhappy with what your GP suggests, you can ask again for more help in line with the NICE guidelines, or ask to see another doctor for their advice. The number one priority is always your child’s safety and wellbeing.

 

Ways you can support your child

Resources

Resource

An emotionally healthy approach to GCSEs - A guide for parents

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

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Resource

An emotionally healthy approach to GCSEs - A guide for teachers

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

View resource
Resource

Asking for help

Tips for young people on when it’s time to talk about their mental health, or if they want to help a friend

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Resource

Coping with self-harm (Welsh)

This Welsh language guide includes information on the nature and causes of self-harm and how to support a young person for parents and carers.

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Resource

Depression booklet

Featuring useful facts, figures and information, this booklet also contains sources of help and what not to say to people experiencing depression

View resource
Resource

Guide to depression for parents and carers

This booklet aims to help recognise and understand depression and how to get appropriate help for their child

View resource
Resource

Guide to depression for parents and carers (Welsh)

This booklet aims to help parents recognise and understand depression and how to get appropriate help for their child

View resource
Resource

Looking after yourself during your GCSEs - A guide for pupils

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

View resource
Resource

Low mood poster

Poster created in partnership with Bank Workers Charity highlighting common causes of low mood, how to help yourself feel better and information on where to get more help.

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Resource

Warning signs poster

A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.

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Resource

Wellbeing Action Plan (child)

A simple, resource to help young people keep themselves well and get them through difficult times

View resource

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