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Distinguishing Clinical Depression
Distinguising Clinical Depression from the "Blues"

Parents may inaccurately attribute their child?s depressed mood as a case of "the blues," when, in fact, their child is clinically depressed. The youth will continue to have problems associated with the depression until it is recognized and treated. These factors distinguish clinical depression from "the blues":

1) Clinical depression is a medical illness, not a normal reaction to life situations causing temporary sadness.

2) Clinical depression persists for weeks, months or years and affects not only mood but also how the body functions (e.g., eating, sleeping and energy level) and how the youth thinks. Youth with clinical depression will continue to have problems at home, with peers, in the classroom, and/or on the job, and may die by suicide. "The blues" will only affect the youth?s mood and functioning briefly and generally does not result in suicidal thinking.

3) Clinical depression will generally only improve with psychiatric treatment; "the blues" will improve after talking with a good listener. Where to Go
for Help

Families can ask their primary care physician or the school?s consulting child psychiatrist, child development specialist, counselor, psychologist or nurse for the names of local mental health practitioners who have successfully treated depression in youth. Families should then ask the mental health practitioner for his or her qualifications and views on evaluating and treating depression in youth.