The truth is that depression does not affect only adults, but children and adolescents, too. Depression is a disease as are diabetes, or high blood pressure. It is believed to be the disease of the future. World Health Organisation estimates that it will soon become the second public health issue in the world.
The moment parents are informed that their child has been born with or has acquired some developmental disability is remembered, because it is something which completely changes family life in the long run. Every parent experiences a process of mourning and abandoning fantasies about the child held before, all in a very short period of time. Then there is the phase of recovery and adjustment to new circumstances of family life. Various studies showed that timely counselling and informing about the nature of their child's disability, as well as about the possibilities of recovery and education, significantly reduce parental stress and their concerns and help them in the process of adjustment to raising their child.
Toxic stress in childhood is a theme of significant and increasing interest. There are numerous reasons for that, accumulated through the years of research, which provide conclusive evidence that stress/trauma causes many short and long term effects in children, thus imposing a risk for a series of diseases in their adult life. For example, it significantly increases the incidence of myocardial infarction and lung cancer, as well as immunological and malignant diseases in adulthood, in comparison with the population not exposed to stress in childhood. We are not writing here about the stress related to everyday activities and challenges of growing up, but about the stress related to family violence, to witnessing physical violence, exposure to corporal punishment, neglect, sexual abuse, peer bullying and similar.
How we can tell the child that his/her mother, father, brother or sister are sick so that the does not experience that as a huge stress depends on the age of the child. We should be guided by the need to communicate true information in a way which the child can understand. It is of utmost importance that the child feels protected by the caring approach of a close person. Therefore, the person who talks to the child should be the one who can cope with his/her anxiety in a balanced manner and show an honest and caring stance. The child needs to be informed about the treatment and what consequently may change in everyday activities of the family.
The child whose parent is in prison is traumatised by separation, confused with parent's behaviour and stigmatised due to feeling ashamed for the parent's illegal activity.
Numerous studies indicate that the presence of parents, preparation of the child to stay in hospital and the child-friendly, age appropriate hospital environment and procedures conducted by the health care staff are important for the child's good adjustment to hospitalisation and the prevention of emotional difficulties as a reaction to hospitalisation.
Moving house to another part of the city or to another city is part of the life experience of many families and children. The child, as well as the whole family, experiences big changes, e.g. changing kindergarten or school, loss of familiar neighbourhood and environment, friends and peers s/he has played with, favourite place to play, etc. In time, children and youth, typically, adapt well to the environment they moved to.
Data from literature show that the prevalence of chronic diseases in children is 10-15% in the world and, equally so, in Croatia. Most often it is insulin dependent diabetes, epilepsy, bronchial asthma, locomotor system diseases, cardiac diseases, chronic colon inflammations and leukaemia.