Sad, depressed, hopeless, heartbroken, lost, alone, desperate, needy, useless, unlucky, mad, cranky, unhappy, upset … yearning for help, craving for acceptance, desperate to be happy.
This is how depression feels. I know because I’ve suffered from it. You feel like your brain has incurable cancer, part of your brain is taking over, and there’s nothing you can do about it
I am not alone.
Surprisingly, one out of five kids has experienced depression, and 10% to 15% of teens suffer symptoms of depression at any given time. In fact, 50% of all types of mental illness start at age 14 according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Thankfully, it helps to know exactly what it is, what causes it, and what are the symptoms. Even more importantly, there are some places to get help.
What causes depression?
According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the “causes” may be due to troubled relationships (love, family, friendships). Others may be depressed as a result of threats of bullying or cyberbullying.
Long-term stress from school, work, or financial problems can also cause depression. Even worse, physical and mental abuse, natural and human-caused disasters, or traumatic veteran experiences can impact one’s mental state.
Also, teens are at high risk because of hormones and body changes. Lastly, if you have Native American ancestry, including Native Alaskans or Pacific Islanders, you are at a higher risk for depression.
Some of the ongoing symptoms could be not eating, sleeping, or exercising enough. Other symptoms are difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelming stress, more mood swings, lower grades, missing school, desire to be alone, and even increased drug or alcohol usage. If you match a lot of the feelings above, then you may be depressed and should seek help.
How to get help?
Regular sleep, exercise, and healthy eating are some simple ways to lift the fog of depression. Try to say good things to yourself and others. Try to stay positive, funny, and think of your blessings in life.
For myself, I like to think about swimming, tasty food, or memorable family trips. You can also write something encouraging or positive on post-it notes and hang them up in a private place. You can say things like, “Make someone smile & do the extra mile!” or “Have an attitude of gratitude!”
Take a break from life with a bike ride, a walk in the park, a hike in nature. You can do whatever makes you happy: write a journal about your feelings, listen to uplifting music, play video games, lose yourself in a really intriguing novel or movie, dance, and exercise. Finally, try not to procrastinate or wait until the last minute on projects, because it will result in more stress.
Even though you might not want to talk about it, make yourself talk to a trusted friend, counselor, family member, teacher, mentor, advisor, manager, etc. Like me, you’ll be surprised to know that there are many other people out there who are depressed. If you want to talk to the “professionals,” then talk to a doctor, psychologist, or therapist. For emergencies, you can call 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
How can you help someone else in need?
Listen. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Some will share their experience---listen to them because you can use this information to help them. Also, they really want to be heard.
In my case, I told trusted friends, and they kept my confidence because I did not seem suicidal. Some didn’t know how to help or weren’t as mature so eventually, I spilled the beans with a part-time music teacher and he shared it with the school counselor.
A Personal Story
It all started in fifth-grade when my friends and I were so excited to graduate. But I heard my best friend was moving to a private school and another best friend moved to a distant city.
I was deeply saddened. It was just me that moved on to our local middle school. During the summer, I took a summer camp at my middle school and met someone who at first was friendly, but later ended up causing unnecessary drama and anxiety that led to more teasing during the school year.
I finally reached out for guidance when I was unsuccessful in trying to handle it on my own. In retrospect, I am glad I did, as this whole experience is now part of “history.”