Low mood and depression are spoken about together and can be mistaken. Low mood and depression can be difficult to understand if you have never experienced it due to the feelings of hopelessness it creates and lack of enjoyment.
What is the difference between low mood and depression?
Low mood is temporary, and usually passes within a couple of days or weeks. Low mood can be caused and rectified by a change in situation or circumstances.
Depression is persistent and affects all areas of your life, and comes with a loss of motivation, interest and enjoyment in activities. Depression can also cause physical symptoms and feelings of guilt and blame.
If you start to feel like your life isn't worth living or you want to harm yourself, get help straight away. Either see your GP or call NHS 111. You can also call Samaritans on 116 123 for 24-hour confidential, non-judgemental emotional support. Other helplines include Papyrus for people under 35 on 0800 068 41 41, or you can text them on 07786 209697. Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is for men and it is open 5pm until midnight every day, you can call them on 0800 58 58 58 and they have online chat.
Low mood and depression can seem to come out of the blue for some people which can make it harder to understand. There are some risk factors which are linked to a high risk of low mood and depression, including:
- Family difficulties
- Abuse (physical, psychological, sexual or emotional)
- Drugs and alcohol misuse
- Not being able to express self
- Refugee status
- Maternal mental health
It is possible that an individual has some of the risk factors listed above but keeps them secret, making it difficult to put specific preventative measures in place.
To help a child or young person with low mood or depression you do not need to be a qualified mental health professional such as a counsellor or psychologist. One of the main ways to help is to listen to the child or young person, and provide them with a safe space to talk without being judged.
Children and young people usually require a lot of reassurance that you are not going to judge, or that they won’t be in trouble, for them to share sensitive topics with you, such as sexuality, bullying or difficulties at home.
It may be incredibly tempting to offer suggestions or recommendations, but if someone is suffering from low mood or depression then it’s difficult for them to see a way out of their situation, or the motivation to try a solution. If you have a solution then be tactful about how you suggest it.
If you feel as though a referral is necessary then that is one way in which you can help. If a child or young person does not want to access therapeutic intervention then we can’t make them go. Help is more effective when offered in a preventative or early manner when the first signs of low mood or depression appear, or as a systemic approach across an education setting or family.
Spotting the signs
It can be difficult to spot the signs of low mood or depression when children and young people are usually quiet, or are going through puberty. Behaviours and signs can be shrugged off as ‘being a typical moody teenager’, this attitude makes it more difficult to put an early intervention in place. Common signs of low mood or depression include:
- Not enjoying previously enjoyed activities
- Feeling tired
- Reduced concentration
- Worry or anxiety
- Frustration or anger
- Increased or reduced appetite
- Feeling hopeless
- Difficulty making decisions
- Unexplained aches or pains
- Avoidance of friends or social activities
To help a child or young person with low mood or depression you do not need to be a qualified mental health professional such as a counsellor or psychologist.
If you recognise these signs in a child or young person, but are unsure of how to help then there are many people you can talk to, including us. Read more about the services we offer for mental health difficulties.