Depression in Kids and The Role of Pets



Only 11 years old and his face was shut like a book refusing to reveal the deep inner pain that brought him to his knees that day. A sense of hopelessness that no other could ever understand. “11 years old,” that’s all he could say. His face reflected the overwhelming sadness that is felt by an entire world today.


‘Short life but not living.’


I intentionally bit my gum so I could hold back the tears that hurt my eyes, the pain I felt was real, to see a young child suffer with such a devastating mental illness wasn’t fair. Oh, do I hug him? Hold him? My throat was hurting for the many times I swallowed. I desired to tell him that he is safe and that everything would be ok. Those thoughts kept crawling in my mind. Holding back those tears, trying to be that strong professional that I’m meant to be, but yet so soft as a dove. I had seen this before but I was still horrified that no child is free from childhood depression.


As he stood on the edge on top of the roof of his home he screamed, I hate school! I want to see mummy! Parents had divorced and he told me he wanted them back together. Desperately the police and his father tried to convince him to not jump!


As I look back to this experience, I spent 12.5 hours looking after this child in the hospital paediatric ward. Not once did my eyes wonder from him. Not once could I convince my self that the suicide age had dropped so low as 11 years old. Now you are concerned too because no child is free from suicide.


Friends, the world is rapidly changing and some kids are getting lost in the process. We are all told to keep up ‘or’ get left behind. It’s inevitable! As you know almost everything is online now. Gone are the days when we paid bills at the post office. We are sometimes called the indoor generation. Less time spent outdoors, less exposure to fresh pure oxygen, sunshine and exercise.



Did You Know

1. That to recover and even prevent childhood depression, children need key things implemented in their life such as motivating them to spend more time outdoors, and exercising. Exposure to sunlight will help increase the body's melatonin hormone production at night, thus reducing the child’s depression.


2. Seratonin is an important brain hormone/neurotransmitter that plays a role in the recovery of depression? Exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s release of serotonin. But the brain can make no serotonin unless tryptophan is first present. We can access tryptophan from foods like whole milk, black walnuts, almonds etc.

3. Melatonin is produced only at night and is dependent on a dark environment. Levels peak around 2 - 3 am so that’s why once you learn this, you’ll always aim to be in bed by 9:00 pm. Just remember that the body does not store melatonin, so a fresh supply must be produced each night.


‘I am too tired!’ ‘I don’t feel like it!’ Heard this before? But they don’t complain when in front of their iPad or iPhone. Concerning! Kids need a motivator to get them out in the outdoors more often.


After much visual assessment I’ve come to the conclusion that the moment a child is face to face with one of our dogs they change for the best. It’s incredible!, Gentle, playful and loving traits start to appear!


Oh, ‘I can still visualise this 11 year old child on the edge of his roof' and how he would benefit with a dog by his side.


Pets motivate kids to keep active and spend more time outdoors in the fresh air, blue skies and sunny days. Heaven! Yay! Dogs especially are great at encouraging kids to exercise, quite effective for children suffering depression. Interestingly, dogs have a therapeutic calming effect on kids. Such as when stroking, sitting or playing with the dog.


When a child is responsible for a pet dog it gives them a sense of purpose, reward and a sense of achievement hence making them feel valuable and needed.


Join us in the fight against childhood depression and suicide!



Alejandra Lopez B.N. Western Sydney University, MA Management (Nurs) Newcastle University. ____________

ReferencesDr. Neil Nedley. https://youtu.be/ijEi-

Qmytnshttps://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlighthttps://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/mood-boosting-power-of-dogs.htm/Nedley, N. (2001) Depression: The Way Out. Nedley Publishing.https://resources.beyondblue.org.au/prism/file?token=BL/0556http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/melatonin/