What Is Depression?
Most young people feel sad or down at some point in their lives. This may be caused by something that's happening around them and usually gets better when the situation is resolved. For some people feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiety and hopelessness can last for long periods of time. They may feel like they're living under a cloud that's difficult to escape. They may feel unable to do the things they used to and find it difficult to get on with everyday life. This is known as depression.
Depression is not uncommon - it's estimated that around 1 in 5 people may suffer from it in their lifetime.
Depression can feel different to different people. Some signs of depression can include feeling more tired than usual or having no energy, sleeping or eating more or less than usual, crying for no clear reason, feeling bad about yourself or feeling like you want to self-harm.
Some people experiencing depression may have suicidal thoughts.
Why Do People Get Depressed?
People can become depressed for lots of different reasons. Things like genes, brain chemistry, big life events and medical conditions can all be factors in depression. For example, the death of a close friend or family member may cause depression. Or perhaps you are more likely to experience it if your mum or dad does too. For some people there may be no obvious reason why they feel depressed.
Depression is a health condition that needs attention, just like a broken arm or asthma. Just because it can't be seen doesn't mean it shouldn't be taken seriously.
Help With Depression
A doctor can give you a proper diagnosis of depression. You have the right to confidentiality as long as you aren't at risk of harm.
You can also speak to a school nurse who can support you to deal with depression. Both of these professionals might suggest that you be referred on to a counselling service or a specialist mental health service like CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.)
There are lots of ways of dealing with depression. Some people find therapy or counselling useful, where they talk to a trained professional who helps them identify strategies for coping with depression.
CBT(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can be used to help you to identify and change negative thoughts that affect your behaviour.
It is rare for young people to be prescribed medication for depression, particularly if it's mild.
You can also develop your own coping strategies. These include exercising, getting enough sleep, eating healthily and avoiding drugs or alcohol that may affect your mood. Writing a feelings diary can also help.
The most important thing to do if you feel depressed is talk to someone. This could be a doctor, teacher, family member or friend. Not talking about how you're feeling can make you even more down. If you want to help a friend with their depression encourage them to speak to a professional. If this isn't going to happen offer them a non-judgemental, listening ear. The websites below have lots more information about managing depression.
Click Here For A Self-Help Guide To Depression
The Aye Mind website also has resources and tips about mental health, lots of them made by young people.
Because depression can happen for lots of different reasons it's difficult to know if it will ever affect you. One of the golden rules of positive mental health is to talk to someone if you need to. Sharing worries, fears, things you feel sad about and even happiness with the people around you can be good for your mental wellbeing.
Being involved in something you're passionate about, or that makes you feel good about yourself, can help you to keep depressed thoughts at bay. Keeping both your mind and body active, and eating and resting enough, is good for your overall wellbeing.
Depression is not a fixed state and if you do feel like this at any point during your life it won't usually last forever. The important thing is to recognise if you're feeling out of sorts and to ask for support.