Depression May Start Much Earlier Than Previously Thought

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NBC Nightly News
Kate Snow
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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2017 research suggests one to two percent of children ages two to five years old have depression, and that if left untreated it can lead to more depression later in life. This video is part of a NBC News series called, "One in Five," which addresses issues facing parents and children about mental health.



"Depression May Start Much Earlier Than Previously Thought." Kate Snow, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 10 Dec. 2017. NBC Learn. Web. 8 September 2018.


Snow, K. (Reporter). (2017, December 10). Depression May Start Much Earlier Than Previously Thought. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Depression May Start Much Earlier Than Previously Thought" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 12/10/2017. Accessed Sat Sep 8 2018 from NBC Learn:


Depression May Start Much Earlier Than Previously Thought

KATE SNOW, reporting:

We're launching a new series of stories here on NIGHTLY NEWS about children and mental health. We're calling it 1in5, Kids at Risk because, in a given year, one out of every five children or teens in this country now has a diagnosable emotional, behavioral, or mental health disorder. Tonight, we focus in on depression in the very youngest of kids--preschoolers.

MYLA: I don’t want to go to my room.

SNOW: It looks like any two-and-a-half-year-old meltdown, but Vicki Harper’s daughter, Myla, would sometimes have epic tantrums.

MYLA: I don’t want to see a picture now.

VICKI HARPER: They would be very long in length. Easily 30, 45 minutes.

SNOW: Wow.

HARPER: Screaming, yelling, hitting. Smack me in the face. Kick me. I was wondering is this-- is this because I’m a single parent? Is this because mental illness runs in our family?

SNOW: Vicki found help at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and learned that long and frequent tantrums can be a sign of depression. Psychiatrist Doctor Joan Luby sees depression in children as young as three and says researchers now know young children’s emotions are more complex than once thought.

DR. JOAN LUBY: If you have a preschool child who is not joyful, who is not enjoying peers, is not enjoying play, is not participating, that’s a problem.

SNOW: That could be a sign of depression?

DR. LUBY: It could be a sign of depression, particularly if it persists.

SNOW: In a lab here, they’re teaching the parents to help children label and identify their emotions. Studies show as many as 300,000 preschoolers have depression and are at risk of having it all through their lives. The hope is that if you identify it early and start treating it early, you can make it better.

DR. LUBY: Yes, that’s the hope, and that you might change a lifelong trajectory.

DEANNA BARCH: This picture here on the brain shows you the pattern of electrical activity.

SNOW: Luby and her colleague Deanna Barch found children with depression have physical differences. The idea--rewire the brain as it develops. People might say why label a kid so young?

DR. LUBY: The benefits of early identification and early intervention far outweigh the stigma. We would never say don’t diagnose a speech and language disorder in a three-year-old. Wait until they are 10. I mean, no one would ever do that.

MYLA: I can’t do it.

SNOW: After 36 weeks in the study, Vicki now has tools to help Myla. She makes sure they spend special time together.

HARPER: I’m glad you kept looking and didn’t give up.

MYLA: I know. Sometimes people give up.

HARPER: Sometimes people do give up. Now Myla can say I’m disappointed. I’m really nervous. I mean, these are words that you typically would not hear a four-year-old say.

SNOW: She says Myla is a different kid now and she’s a different mom.

HARPER: When you think about where we started to where we are now, she’s put a lot of work in, too. And it shows. It shows. She’s just a special kid and now more people can see that.

SNOW: Vicki’s hope is that Myla won’t have future issues with depression or other mental health disorders. Doctor Luby isn’t promoting medication but believes therapy is really helping these kids. She is a special kid.