Feature Archive

Child Depression: What Should Parents Do?

Experts say don't stop medication, but get child and family into talk therapy.

By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

If antidepressants aren't always safe for kids, as noted by the FDA, then what is? Parents are confused, frightened: What should we do when a child has depression?

First step: Don't stop the medication. "If your child is taking an antidepressant, don't stop or make changes abruptly," says psychiatrist David Fassler, MD, of the University of Vermont College of Medicine, and author of Help Me, I'm Sad, a book about childhood depression. "Talk to the child's psychiatrist, ask questions, get as much info as possible, so you can make a good decision for your child."

Antidepressants can work extremely well for a depressed child or adolescent, he tells WebMD. "But they are most effective when used with psychotherapy, too. Also, it's extremely important that kids be monitored closely while taking any medication for depression."

Kids with previous suicide attempts are at greater risk for another attempt, says Fassler. Also, kids with a family history of suicide are at high risk.

"We do know that certain interventions appear to reduce the suicide risk," he adds. "For example, cognitive behavioral therapy -- a specific kind of psychotherapy -- involves changing thought patterns and reactions to events in their lives. That can help."