Providing Information About Your Depressed Child

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Updated March 27, 2015.

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

If your child has been evaluated or treated for depression, you may have already provided information about her daily routine, feelings, and behaviors. If she is soon to be evaluated or treated for depression, you may be asked to provide important information about her.

Clinicians and evaluators rely heavily on a parent's account of what is going on with a child -- especially for very young children, or children with illnesses or cognitive deficits that make communication difficult.

What You Might Be Asked to Do

As a parent of a child being evaluated or treated for depression, you may be asked to do any of the following:
  • Complete assessments (such as the Child Behavior Checklist)
  • Participate in a structured interview with a professional
  • Talk with a professional before or after your child's appointment
  • Talk on the phone with a professional

The Importance of Providing Information About Your Child

As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. When your child is evaluated or treated for depression, your observations and opinions are a part of the puzzle that only you can complete.

Children are not always able to express what they are feeling. Concepts like irritability and concentration are difficult for a young child to understand, much less articulate. A child may just feel that she is "not herself," but have a hard time explaining why or how.

Additionally, parents are usually the first to notice when a child is displaying new or worsening symptoms. Worsening symptoms of depression are extremely important to report to a child's treating provider as soon as possible.

Parents can explain family dynamics, as well as family psychological and medical history -- all important parts of a child's mental health that she may not be aware of.

Parental input is important far beyond the evaluation process. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, parents should also be involved in helping to determine the appropriateness of a treatment plan for a depressed child. A parent can offer insight into a child's ability to take medications or meet for appointments.

Concerns Over Giving Information

Many parents worry about how the information they provide will be interpreted by professionals. However, parents should always provide honest and accurate information about their children. Participating in the evaluation process should not stressful, but instead a positive contribution to your child's recovery from depression.

Evaluating and treating professionals do not expect parents to interpret or analyze feelings or behaviors. Information gathered is intended to give providers with a better look into a child's everyday life in hopes of picking up on something that they might have otherwise missed.

A great deal of research on psychological assessments shows that a parent's report often increases the accuracy of diagnostic results. An accurate diagnosis improves the assignment of effective treatment for your child.

Your Rights as a Parent

As a parent, you have the right to give as much or as little information about your child as you feel comfortable with. However, your report is likely to benefit your child in many ways.

Any information that you disclose is confidential and protected by law. Generally, an evaluator or treating professional will discuss the boundaries of confidentiality prior to an evaluation or treatment. You should always discuss your concerns before starting either.

Providing information about your child is a great way for parents to aid in the depression recovery process. Helping your child get appropriate treatment is her best chance at a full recovery from depression.

Sources:

Andrea Canter, PhD, NCSP. Psychological Evaluations. What Every Principal Should Know. National Association of School Psychologists. Principal Leadership Magazine. November 2003; 4(3).

Boris Birmaher, MD, David Brent, MD, et al. Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Depressive Disorders. The Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 46(11). November 2007. 1503-1526.

Selvi B. Williams, M.D., Ph.D., Elizabeth O'Connor, Ph.D., Michelle Eder, Ph.D. et al. Screening for Child and Adolescent Depression in Primary Care Settings: A Systematic Evidence Review for the US Preventative Services Task Force. Pediatrics. April 4, 2009: E716.
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