October 4, 2023

 Angela Onwuzoo

The Provost and Medical Director of Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Dr. Paul Agboola, says that prolonged and untreated depression in children can lead to organ damage. 

According to the child and adolescent consultant psychiatrist, depression if it is persistent and untreated in children over some time, could affect the functioning of body organs such as the brain, heart, kidney, liver, lungs, and even the blood vessels.

Agboola disclosed this in an exclusive interview with Reportr Door HealthWise, urging parents with children suffering from clinical depression to take them to experts for proper treatment.

The mental health expert also said if depression in children is not treated, it could continue into adulthood.

He stated that depression could secondarily lead to kidney failure, explaining that it could indirectly lead to organ failure because the hormone that ought to serve the kidneys is reduced. 

He listed sudden low interest in school, bed wetting, reduced appetite, weight loss, and not being interested in regular things as some of the signs of depression in children. 

The psychiatrist said child abuse, family history of mental disorder, environmental factors, traumatic side effects, war, and murder of parents could lead to depression in children.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, depression can happen as a reaction to something like abuse, violence in school, the death of someone close, or family problems like domestic violence or family breakdown. 

“Someone might get depressed after being stressed for a long time. It can also run in the family. Sometimes we may not know why it happens,” UNICEF added.

The mental health expert also said that depression affects every other part of the body, stressing that the complications of depression in children are quite enormous.

The medical director explained, “Prolonged depression in children that is not treated can over time affect the way other organs of the body function. It can affect the way the heart functions, and it can affect the kidneys over some time.

“Depression in children, if it is not treated early and if it persists, can affect the way other organs of the body function. 

“In depression, it is not only when the child commits suicide. The impact of depression if it is long-lasting and not treated, can affect the way other organs of the body function. 

“The scenario is this, the brain is low. If that child is not eating and is not sleeping if nothing is done, the quality of life of that child will be affected.”

Agboola also stated that depression could reduce the production of hormones in the body.

“Now, the hormones of the body will also be affected. So, hormone production will be reduced and if hormone production is reduced, then those areas in which the hormones serve will be affected. 

“So in other words, depression if it is not taken care of and if it is prolonged, can affect other functions of the body. 

“The brain controls the body. Now if the brain is not being fed with food – protein, carbohydrate, fat and oil, and essential minerals, if it is not there, the brain will not develop well. 

“Now, with the brain that is not developing well, automatically, over a long period, it will affect other organs of the body”, he said. 

According to him, depression is a persistent state of low mood. 

Agboola noted that depression was common in children but not as common as in adults. 

The provost, however, said depression may be missed when it occurs in children because their verbal fluency might not be able to express their emotional state like adults.

But he said mental experts can pick the signs of depression in children even though they are not classic like what you see in adults. 

“So, it is very easy for people around that person not to know that this person is depressed. The symptoms are not classical like what you see in adults. 

“However, professionals like us can pick those signs in children. Parents, if they are not observant, could miss those things in that child. Depression in children if it is not taken care of could lead to something else. The child will not be able to develop properly in terms of age, height, and weight,” he added. 

 The psychiatrist said depression in children could be treated using different methods including storytelling and the use of pictures. 

He said, “The treatment and management of children with depression involve a lot of workers including psychiatrists, paediatricians, psychologists, social workers, nutrition experts, and speech therapists.”

UNICEF also says depression can be treated and the sooner parents speak to an expert, the sooner their child can feel better.  

“It’s important to know that children and adolescents who experience depression are at greater risk of self-harm and suicide. However, this is preventable when appropriate support is provided,” the child agency said. 

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