Childhood depression is on the rise

According to Young Minds, one in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder; that’s around three children in every classroom. Furthermore, it may be shocking to hear that research by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) shows that 80,000 children in the UK are estimated to suffer from severe depression, including 8,000 below the age of 10.

Depression in children can be difficult to spot. Childhood depression is different from the normal “blues” and everyday emotions that occur as a child develops. Just because a child seems sad does not necessarily mean they have significant depression. If the sadness becomes persistent or if disruptive behaviour that interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork or family life develops, it may indicate that they have a depressive illness.

The primary symptoms of depression revolve around sadness, a feeling of hopelessness and mood swings. Signs and symptoms of depression in children include:

Irritability or anger
Continuous feelings of sadness, hopelessness
Mood swings
Social withdrawal
Increased sensitivity to rejection
Changes in appetite – either increased or decreased
Changes in sleep – sleeplessness or excessive sleep
Vocal outbursts or crying
Difficulty concentrating
Fatigue and low energy
Physical complaints (such as stomach-aches, headaches) that do not respond to treatment
Reduced ability to function during activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Impaired thinking or concentration
Thoughts of death or suicide

Not all children have all these symptoms. In fact, most will display different symptoms at different times and in different settings. Some children may continue to function reasonably well in a structured environment, most with significant depression will suffer a noticeable change in social activities, loss of interest in school and poor academic performance or a change in appearance.

In Sunflower’s experience, physical and mental health are interwoven and inextricably linked. For this reason, the Sunflower Programme addresses any imbalances in the musculoskeletal and neurological systems first which immediately improves blood flow, digestion, the way a child presents themselves and the way that the nervous system processes sensory information (sight, sound, smell, touch and taste).
The final and critically important step of the Sunflower Programme addresses Emotional Wellbeing : Feelings & Behaviour. Gemma Ware, our Guildford-based Sunflower Practitioner explains,

“I work with a child’s subconscious brain, where sensory memories are stored, to help them overcome negative associations or behaviour patterns and build in more positive responses. This process has a much higher success rate in children who haven’t become ‘hard wired’ and are still learning. Early intervention is key! I hear so many children use the words ‘I can’t.’ Well, it’s my belief that you can; it’s just about finding the right methods to help children believe this too. With Sunflower, I give them skills for life to help them be confident and have conviction in themselves and their future.”

At Sunflower, we have found that a child who feels low or is performing poorly often begins to fall into a downward spiral from which he or she is unable to find a way back. The Sunflower Programme ‘re-boots the body and brain’ to reverse that spiral and bring a child back to a state of wellness, confidence and happiness. Freddie was one such Sunflower Story. Of his experience, Freddie’s father reported the following.

“As we progressed through the programme, I began to see improvements in Freddie’s attitude to things at school and to life in general. I could see that the ‘re-wiring’, as it was called, was certainly having quite an effect on Freddie’s confidence. Not only was Freddie now willing and able to try out new things, he was also in much better physical shape. This meant that he was doing better at sports at school and, as a result, felt happier about himself.

Freddie has now finished his the programme and I can see a huge improvement in his confidence. I know that we will go back to Sunflower for top-up sessions, which will, no doubt, be necessary from time-to-time. It’s so nice to know that there’s something out there that is totally natural that can have such a positive effect on a child – I think every child should have a Sunflower Practitioner to go to!”

If you think your child would benefit from the Sunflower Programme, get in touch call 0845 054 7509 for an informal chat, or email

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