UAE Childhood Depression on the Rise

From API’s Publications Team

childhood depressionAccording to an article on the United Arab Emirates’, “More than Sadness,” the rate of children with depression in the UAE is on the rise.

According to Dr. Timo Brosig of the German Center for Neurology and Psychiatry in Dubai Healthcare City, one in 33 children under 12 years old – and one in eight adolescents – suffers from significant depression. Experts blame the rising divorce rate, more stress in general, and family anxiety are to blame. With concerns over an economic recession and the financial worries families will have, the rate of childhood is only expected to increase.

Another factor in the UAE is that more children – especially expats – are being cared for by someone other than Mom or Dad. Parents aren’t taking the time to connect with their children, and television is replacing the caretaker position.

Alexandra Massey, author of Happy Kids, said she was depressed as am expatriate child living in Trinidad.

“It wasn’t because I was an expat – I think I would have been depressed wherever I was,” she said. “It was my parenting. My mother was more interested in partying than in me, and I felt neglected. I had staff looking after me, but my primary attachment – my mum – didn’t give me the communication I needed.”

The article explains that depression is more common in children who come from families with a history of mental illness and suicide, as well as those from abusive homes, those who suffer long illnesses, have lost a parent, or who have divorced parents. It’s also thought that depression can be a learned behavior passed from depressed parents to their children. The long-term consequences are worrying: relapses in adulthood, the likelihood of dropping out of college or school at an earlier age, and an increased risk of suicide.

So how do you tell if your child is depressed? According to the article, the symptoms are the same as in adults; however, children are usually unable to articulate these symptoms as well. Instead, many children might show depression through aches and pains that have no physical basis, or they might act out more than what could be considered normal.

Many health care providers are wary of prescibing medication, according to the article, because of the unknown long-term risks to development as well as possible side effects. Rather, the recommended treatment is a combination of therapy and changes made within the family home to make it a more stable, predictable environment and to help boost self-esteem in the affected child.

Another important part of treatment is making sure that the child is eating well – sugar, salt, and fatty foods can lead to a depressed mood, whereas fresh fruits and vegetables are natural mood boosters. Also, children do well when introduced into physical or creative activities, such as music and sports.

Massey added that parents need to pay attention to how their parenting behaviors are affecting their child’s emotional health.

“Children must be in an environment where they can talk to their parents freely about their feelings,” she said. “Kids who are depressed need to be listened to. You need to get down to their level to understand their world and where they’re coming from. The instinct is to say that it will all be fine next week, but you need to let them know that you understand how awful it is right now. Fifteen minutes of non-judgemental listening time where you validate their emotions, saying ‘I can see that it’s difficult when…’ is what’s needed. There’s more magic in that than in therapy.”

To read the entire article, go to

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