Pediatric clinical depression: Compassionate care for your child’s needs

Clinical depression and depression are mental illnesses. They bring extreme feelings of emptiness, sadness and worthlessness. The UW Health Kids pediatric experts help you and your child cope with, manage and prevent depression.

Types and causes

Causes of clinical depression and depression

Clinical depression and depression can affect your child’s body, mood and thoughts.

Depression interferes with how your child eats, enjoys life, sleeps and works. Clinical depression is a more severe type of depression. Symptoms of all depression can last for weeks or months.

Biochemical changes in the brain cause depression. Depression can be related to:

  • Certain life events

  • Environment

  • Extreme stress

  • Extreme grief

  • Genetics

In some people, depression occurs even when life is going well.

Symptoms and diagnosis

What depression feels like

We help manage your child’s depression by making an accurate and early diagnosis.

Signs that your child might be depressed include:

  • Alcohol or drug use (children 12 or older)

  • Anger

  • Changes in appetite

  • Changes in sleep

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Fatigue

  • Feeling sad or hopeless

  • Feeling worthless

  • Inability to function at school

  • Increased sensitivity

  • Impaired thinking

  • Loss of interest in friends or usual activities

  • Persistent headache

  • Persistent stomachache

  • Social withdrawal

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

How we diagnose depression

If your child shows signs of depression, our experts perform a comprehensive exam. Depression can occur with other conditions, such as anxiety. We want to understand everything that impacts your child.

We review:

  • Family dynamics and environmental stressors

  • Family psychiatric and medical history

  • Input from teachers and other care providers

  • Your child’s age, health and medical history

  • Your child’s current behaviors, functioning and symptoms

Smiling child with sign reading UW Health Kids
UW Health Kids
Our pediatric experts have served the special needs of children for more than 100 years. We focus on each child’s unique needs and offer social and emotional support to help you and your child face even the most complex condition. Our long history includes the creation of medical advances that save lives around the world. Together, we get your child back to health and enjoying being a kid.


Personalized care for your child

We provide treatments to improve function and reduce distress.

Our specialists create a care plan to address your child’s specific symptoms. We believe in early treatment, which shortens depressive episodes. Treatment improves your child’s function with friends and family, at home and school.

Treatment options include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

  • Community support programs

  • Counseling

  • Family therapy

  • Inpatient and partial hospitalization psychiatric care

  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

  • Medical and psychiatric follow-up and support

  • Medications

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

We help your child avoid depression in the future and teach them how to manage episodes as they occur. Children with more severe depression or clinical depression might need ongoing treatment.

Meet our team

Specialized care from pediatric experts

The UW Health Kids depression care team includes pediatric experts in behavioral health, psychiatry and psychology.

Our providers


Ongoing and crisis care

We offer specialized care for children with clinical depression and depression in Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

Mental and Behavioral Health

Promoting well-being, healing and recovery.

Learn more