So what exactly is depression?

 In Know the Line

What is depression?
Depression isn’t simple. There are many different forms of depression ranging from mild to severe and some conditions exist where depression is one of the symptoms. It can impact anyone, regardless of age, race or gender.

In recent years, the rates of depression recorded in teenagers has increased dramatically – studies show that roughly 20 percent of all teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood. Despite the increase, no one truly understands what causes depression, in some cases it is caused by trauma, for example abuse, extreme stress or family problems; in other cases it is caused by substance abuse or genetics. However, many people show signs of depression without any of these reasons.

Am I depressed?
It can be hard to identify depression without consulting a professional as it affects people in

different ways. Everyone can feel sad or down, but if you feel like this for weeks or months at a time or if these feelings are very severe, you may have some form of depression.

Symptoms include:
➔ Continuous or extreme sadness
➔ Feeling empty and emotionless
➔ Feeling tearful for no apparent reason
➔ Sleeping much more or much less than usual ➔ Eating more or less than usual
➔ Losing enjoyment in your favourite things
➔ Feeling irritable
➔ Finding it very difficult to make decisions
➔ Finding it very hard to concentrate
➔ Feeling random aches or pains

If you experience half or more of these symptoms, it is likely you are depressed.

What do I do?
The difficulty is recognising that despite how isolated you may feel, there is always a way to

find help. Many people tend to wait before seeking help but no matter what the reason may be for doing so, it’s best to seek help as soon as possible, so that you can recover quicker and minimise suffering.

If you are over 16, you may want to book an appointment with your GP because they will diagnose you correctly and point you in the direction of help. The GP can also take action based on the severity of your situation, so if you feel like you really need help, you will get it as soon as possible. You could also find a private counsellor to help you overcome the symptoms of depression and give you advice on how to move forward.

If you are under the age of 16, things can be a bit more difficult. This is because it is much harder for under 16’s to get the help they need without parents permission. If you feel you are depressed then it will be helpful to talk to an adult that you trust and feel comfortable telling, this can be any family member, teacher or school nurse. If for some reason you feel you can’t involve your parents, a teacher or school nurse can direct you to your schools support system or pastoral care system. During school holidays or if you would feel more comfortable acting outside of school, another family member can act as your guardian to take you to the GP or to a counsellor. Approaching an adult for help might seem very difficult at first, but you need to remember that they can help you. A good way to do this would be to ask to talk somewhere quiet, away from others. It helps to think about what you will say to them beforehand, but keep in mind that they will not judge you and will make you feel safe.

Remember that talking about how you feel is the first step to getting better.

If you feel like you need urgent help, you can call a 24 hour daily service that can help at any time of crisis, including 116 123 , the number for Samaritans. Samaritans is a free helpline that runs all the time. Another number you could call is 0800 1111, the number for childline. Childline is available all day for under 19 year olds.

Can I help myself get better?
There are certain small changes that you can make to your lifestyle that will make you feel

better.

First of all, do things that you enjoy. Whether it is an old hobby you stopped doing or something completely new, doing something that you enjoy or that just distracts you will make you feel better. It may make it easier if you ask a friend to join you. Try to do things you enjoy every day.

Making changes to your diet and sleep habits are also proven to promote good mental health. Try to cut out the amount of sugar you eat, of course you can still treat yourself but reducing the amount of sugar you eat every day can make you feel much better. You can always try cooking or baking healthier alternatives to your favourite foods. As well as diet changes, sleep has proven connections to your overall mental health. Try aim for the recommended amount of sleep for teenagers (8-10 hours). If you find sleeping difficult there are a few things you can do to help: turn off phones and laptops and pick up a book instead, avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol before you sleep, meditate before bed, ensure your room is cool and dark and aiming to fall asleep and wake up at the same time daily can all help with the quality of your sleep.

Another thing you can do is practice mindfulness in your day to day life. Mindfulness means being aware in the present moment, and you can practice mindfulness in many different ways, the simplest being to pay extra attention to your breathing and your senses. Different forms of mindfulness works for different people, so try things out to find ones you enjoy.

Mindfulness improves your concentration and increases the activity in your prefrontal cortex, the area of your brain that is associated with positive emotion.

Finally, make an effort to keep in touch with other people. Both family and friends can always listen to your problems and keep you active. Also, strengthening your relationships with others can improve your mood and help you stay connected with others.

I think someone I know needs help…
The best thing to do in this situation is to keep in touch with the person you’re concerned

about. Make sure they know that you are willing to listen to them. If possible, try to support them to get help and reassure them that it is okay to do so. Don’t force them to do anything that they don’t want to do.

Sometimes it would help to ask to meet them in person. This is also good if you believe they are in a bad situation as being with them can comfort them and prevent them from harming themselves or other people.

If you feel like someone is in a crisis and you are not with them, you can call 111 which directs you to the NHS service, they can offer advice on what to do. In urgent situations you can call 999 for emergency services if you feel like they are going to harm themselves or someone else.

Always remember to take the time to relax and talk to someone yourself. Helping someone else with depression can affect you too, so make sure you keep yourself well and find help if you need it.

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