Low mood or depression

Feeling sad is a normal reaction; everyone feels low or down at times and children and young people (just like adults) can be upset by many different things that might occur.

But if the feeling is more than just sad or it persists for a longer time, then everyday sadness or low mood may move into something more serious such as depression. Children and young people may see themselves and the future in a negative way, feel hopeless, or no longer feel or seem themselves.

Identifying the signs

Symptoms can include:

  • being moody and irritable
  • not being interested in things they used to enjoy
  • not wanting to go to school or go out
  • often feeling tired or exhausted
  • becoming withdrawn and isolating self from others
  • feeling unhappy and miserable or becoming tearful
  • sleep problems or sleeping a lot
  • changes in appetite
  • being self-critical
  • feeling hopeless and/or worthless

Find out more about low mood

MindEd is a free educational e-learning resource for professionals on children and young people’s mental health. This session aims to help staff better understand how anxiety affects children and supports them to recognise the difference between clinical depression and normal emotional experiences of sadness:

  • Sad, bored or isolated: recognising the difference between clinical depression and normal emotional experiences of sadness

Top tips

Ask a child how they are

Provide regular check-ins with a child or young person from this key adult in the school.

Share concerns with parents and carers

If you notice a chance in a student’s behaviour that may indicate that they are depressed, you may want to consider speaking to a family member, where appropriate.

Share concerns with your pastoral team

Together you can decide on the right action to take, which may include the need for referral to a school counsellor or specialist services like CAMHS.

What schools and further education settings can do

Concerned about a child?

If you are worried that a child is at risk involve your designated safeguarding lead as a matter of priority who will contact the parents/carers and other services as necessary. If the child is at immediate risk, ensure that they are taken to their GP or A&E as a matter of urgency, depending on the severity of the concern.

Find out more

Related resources

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Childline: depression and feeling sad

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Anxiety and depression lesson plan
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Anxiety and depression lesson plan

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A parent’s guide to depression
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A parent’s guide to depression

Help parents to recognise the warning signs of depression and talk to children about their feelings.

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MindEd: sad, bored or isolated
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MindEd: sad, bored or isolated

This training session will help staff recognise the difference between clinical depression and...

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