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Out of the Darkness: Teen depression
Out of the Darkness: Teen depression
Oct. 8, 2011
By Mary Pechar
What does depression feel like?
If you think you are depressed, you’re not alone. Depression is far more common in teens than you may think, and there is a lot of hope and help on the horizon. No matter what you believe, people love and care about you, and if you can muster the courage to talk about your depression, it can – and will – be resolved. Some people think that talking about sad feelings will make them worse, but the opposite is almost always true. It is very helpful to share your worries with someone who will listen and care, especially a trained professional who can guide you towards feeling better.
SIGNS OF DEPRESSION IN TEENS
It’s hard to put into words how depression feels, and people experience it differently. There are, however, some common symptoms that teens with depression experience.
1. Feelings of sadness or hopelessness, often accompanied by anxiety.
You constantly feel irritable, sad, or angry.
Nothing seems fun anymore, and you just don’t see the point of trying.
You feel bad about yourself – worthless, guilty or just “wrong” in some way.
Anything and everything makes you cry.
You feel helpless and hopeless.
You have frequent, unexplained headaches or other physical problems.
You’re thinking about death or suicide. (If this is true, talk to someone right away!)
2. You sleep too much or not enough.
3. You’ve gained or lost weight without consciously trying to.
4. You just can’t concentrate. Your grades may be plummeting because of it.
5. You’ve lost pleasure or interest in social and sports activities.
IS YOUR FRIEND DEPRESSED?
If you’re a teenager with a friend who seems down or troubled, you may suspect depression. But how do you know it’s not just a passing phase or a bad mood? Look for common warning signs of teen depression:
• Your friend doesn’t want to do the things you guys used to love to do.
• Your friend starts using alcohol or drugs or hanging with a bad crowd.
• Your friend stops going to classes and afterschool activities.
• Your friend talks about being bad, ugly, stupid or worthless.
• Your friend starts talking about death or suicide.
DEALING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS
If your feelings become so overwhelming that you can’t see any solution besides harming yourself or others, you need to get help right away. And yet, asking for help when you’re in the midst of such strong emotions can be really tough.
If talking to a stranger might be easier for you, call 1-800-273-TALK to speak in confidence to someone who can understand and help you deal with your feelings.
Locally you can go to www.prodeoyouthcenter.org for a list of resources. You may contact Pro Deo directly at Kylie @prodeoyouthcenter.org or by calling 816-226-6806.
ReDiscover has a crisis line 816.966.0900 that is answered 24 hours daily and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Lee’s Summit Police Department has officers trained in Crisis Intervention and can be reached as easily as calling 911.
Here are sggestions that can help get you through until you feel ready to talk to someone:
• There is ALWAYS another solution, even if you can’t see it right now. Many kids who have attempted suicide (and survived) say that they did it because they mistakenly felt there was no other solution to a problem they were experiencing. At the time, they could not see another way out, but in truth, they didn’t really want to die. Remember that no matter how horribly you feel today, these emotions will pass.
• Having thoughts of hurting yourself or others does not make you a bad person. Depression can make you think and feel things that are out of character. No one should judge you or condemn you for these feelings if you are brave enough to talk about them.
• If your feelings are uncontrollable, tell yourself to wait 24 hours before you take any action. This can give you time to really think things through and give yourself some distance from the strong emotions that are plaguing you. During this 24-hour period, try to talk to someone—anyone—as long as they are not another suicidal or depressed person. Call a hotline or talk to a friend. What do you have to lose?
• If you’re afraid you can’t control yourself, make sure you are never alone. Even if you can’t verbalize your feelings, just stay in public places, hang out with friends or family members, or go to a movie—anything to keep from being by yourself and in danger.
Above all, do not do anything that could result in permanent damage or death to yourself or others. Remember, suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Help is available. All you need to do is take that first step and reach out.
THREE STEPS PARENTS CAN TAKE
• Get your child help (medical or mental health professional).
• Support your child (listen, avoid undue criticism, remain connected).
• Become informed (library, local support group, Internet)
THREE STEPS TEENS CAN TAKE:
• Take your friend’s actions seriously.
• Encourage your friend to seek professional help, accompany if necessary.
• Talk to an adult you trust. Don’t be alone in helping your friend.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO FEEL BETTER
Depression is not your fault and you didn’t cause it. But, you can have some control over feeling better. Granted it may be hard to talk but the more open you are in sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust, the better you will begin to feel. Make healthy lifestyle decisions because they can effect how you feel.
• Ask for help if you’re stressed. Stress and anxiety may lead to depression. Talk to someone – your parents, a teacher, your doctor or another health care provider – who will have access to the resources to help you get healthier and feel better.
• Try not to isolate yourself. Getting up in the morning may be the last thing you feel like doing, but getting out and spending time with family and friends may help. Especially try to be around those who are upbeat, active and make you feel good about yourself.
• Remember that you are not alone. Depression affects a broad spectrum of society. Age does not define the issue, however, teens and young adults and the elderly are two highly impacted age groups. Remember you can feel better; the depression will lift and with proper treatment and healthy choices even sooner.
• Keep your body healthy. The old saying “you are what you eat” is still true. Your body needs vitamins and minerals such as iron and the B-vitamins. Feed your mind with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The endorphins released from exercising make you feel instantly happier. Sports, bicycling, even a short walk can be beneficial.
• Avoid alcohol and drugs. It may be tempting to escape your feelings by using drugs or alcohol. But, not only can substance use make your condition worse, their use can lead to depression in the first place. If you are addicted, get help.
• Talk to your parents about depression. They may not have all the answers, but when you hurt they hurt. Letting your parents know that you are feeling depressed will probably motivate them to make sure you get the help you need.
Information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Helpguide.org, prodeoyouthcenter.org and Lee’s Summit Cares.
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