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5 Questions to Ask Your Child’s Mental Health Provider About Depression

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Updated September 20, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Knowing some important questions to ask about depression in your child can provide you with information you need to ensure that your child is on the road to recovery. Grab a pen and paper for your child's next visit with her mental health provider and ask away.

1. What Was Learned While Making the Diagnosis?

Whether or not your child underwent formal psychological testing, find out what was learned about your child while she was being diagnosed with depression. While raw test scores or lab results are not meaningful without a professional's interpretation, you should know what was identified. Your child's mental health provider may have identified additional factors about her development, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, etc. These may all be important factors in facilitating your child's recovery.

2. What Are The Available Treatment Options?

You may have already done research about treatment options for depression in children, but you will want to ask your child's doctor what the best options are for her specific case.

Your input and opinions are important too. The treatment must not only be safe and effective for your child, but also be a good fit for your entire family.

3. What Are the Potential Side Effects?

If medication is chosen for your child, find out what the possible side effects of the medication are, how best to manage them, and how long to expect them.

If your child will be in counseling or psychotherapy, there may be behavioral or emotional changes to be aware of as well. Ask your child's therapist what to expect from therapy.

4. What Are Signs That My Child Is Getting Better Or Worse?

You know your child better than anyone else, but it may not be easy to identify signs of improvement or regression in your child's depression. Ask your her health care provider for some clear signs that your child's depression is improving or getting worse, and an appropriate time frame for expecting results.

5. When Should We Call Or Come In Urgently?

Depression is a serious medical condition, so you will want to know which questions or concerns can wait until the next follow-up appointment, and which warrant an urgent phone call or visit.

Ask your child's provider for signs of a serious reaction to medication, and what to do if your child has suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Suicidal behavior is always an emergency and medical care should be sought.

Going through evaluation and treatment for your child's depression can be an overwhelming process. Knowing what to expect can ease your fears -- and your child's too.

Sources:

Antidepressant Medications for Children and Adolescents: Information for Parents and Caregivers. National Institute on Mental Health. Accessed: July 27, 2010. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/child-and-adolescent-mental-health/antidepressant-medications-for-children-and-adolescents-information-for-parents-and-caregivers.shtml

Antidepressant Use in Children, Adolescents, and Adults. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed: May 28, 2010. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273

Knowing The Warning Signs. American Association of Suicidology. Accessed: October 12, 2010. http://www.suicidology.org/web/guest/stats-and-tools/warning-signs

Truant GS, Lohrenz JG.. "Basic principles of psychotherapy. I. Introduction, basic goals, and the therapeutic relationship." American Journal of Psychotherapy.. Winter 1993 47(1):8-18.

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