Children, teens: Coping with holiday blues

How can you identify the symptoms?

For one, it is important to recognize that symptoms in children may look very different from depressive symptoms in adults.

"Children and adolescents tend to [exhibit] more agitation and irritability," said Gesek. "They might be described by people in their life as crabby and lashing out. School and home can be different in the sense that there might be symptoms at one and not the other, and the type of symptoms might be different, too."

Parents may see changes in their child's eating or sleeping patterns; notice a dip in self esteem or complaints of headaches or stomachaches. At school, a child may start to act out by arguing with a teacher or fighting with peers; stop turning in homework assignments or become less involved in class.

What can parents, teachers and peers do to help?

"If you are a parent, take changes in behavior that last more than two weeks seriously," Davis said. "Start looking for resources right away; don't put it off. Also, trust your gut. If you feel like something is wrong, keep seeking help."

Available resources to contact include your family physician, school psychologists or school-based counselors, as well as mental health agencies and clinical psychologists outside of school. The Mental Health Association of Onondaga County has a full referral base and information for where people can go for services. Contact 445-5606 or email requests@mha-oc.org.

"Parents do need to reach outside of the home and not be concerned with trying to fix everything on their own," Gesek said. "There are some family issues you just need support with."

Teachers should alert not only the mental health staff at school but also dialogue with parents if concerns arise.

"Sometimes parents don't even notice that kids are exhibiting problematic symptoms here at school," Gesek said. "It's about reaching out to resources."

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