Sometimes people tell us that being young is the best time of our lives. For many young people it is. For others it can be a really challenging time – wanting independence, trying to fit in, new relationships, working things out with family and friends, and just coping with the day-to-day highs and lows. Depression isn’t just going through a tough time and it isn’t the same as everyday sadness or anger.
Everyone feels sad or angry at times – because of break-ups, losing someone they care about or because things go wrong at work or school. These feelings are all a part of life. We all experience them sometimes, but just because you’re feeling sad or down, doesn’t mean you’re depressed.
If you’ve got depression – the clinical illness – you’ll generally feel sad, down or miserable most of the time and you’ll find it hard to cope from day to day. You may find you stop enjoying life, playing sport, achieving at school or work, or hanging out with friends and family. If you’re sad for a day or two, that’s not depression, however when the symptoms go on for two weeks or longer, that could be depression.
It’s important for us all to Look for the symptoms of depression so we can get help for ourselves or for others when it’s needed. Getting the right type of help and getting it early can assist you with getting back on track and teach you new ways to deal with depression.
Depression is the most common mental health problem for young people.
- Over 160,000 young people aged 16 – 24 experience depression each year.
- Around one in five young people will have experienced depression by the time they get to adulthood.
- Girls are nearly twice as likely to experience depression as boys. (Girls -15 per cent Boys 9 per cent)
- Up to 40 per cent of young people experience a depressed mood in any six month period, which puts them at risk of depression.
Depression is an illness, which can lead to binge drinking, problems with alcohol and other drugs, low self-esteem and taking health risks.
A research study funded by beyondblue showed that about one quarter of young people experiencing severe depression later developed substance and alcohol disorders. (Three to eight year follow up of adolescents treated for depression and their families: Predictors of treatment outcome. Professor Bruce Tonge, Monash University, 2007)
Depression can also have long-term effects. Depressed young people might drop out of school or quit their jobs, which further affects their social lives and work options.
Young people who experience depression are often at risk of depression in adulthood as well – and depression is a well-recognised risk factor for suicidal behaviour.
It is important to understand that depression can be treated. If you’re concerned about yourself, a friend or family member Look, Listen, Talk and Seek Help Together. LOOK for the signs of depression, LISTEN to your friends’ experiences, TALK about what’s going on and SEEK HELP together.
People often think you “get depressed” because something’s gone wrong with your life – you’ve gone through a bad break-up or failed an exam. But research shows that there is usually more than one reason for depression. It’s more usually caused by a combination of several of the factors below that put young people at risk of developing depression.
- family history of mental illness
- anxiety as a kid
- family arguments, separation, divorce, brothers or sisters moving out
- physical or emotional abuse
- mum or dad having depression or another mental illness
- poor self esteem
- not getting on with friends or family
- not coping
- not being able to talk to people
- not having people to talk to
- not doing well at school or work
- being in debt
- putting oneself down
- feeling lonely
Young people who experience a head injury or another illness, such as epilepsy or cancer, can also be at more risk of developing depression.
Sometimes depression occurs for no obvious reason. Regardless of what causes depression, it’s a very real illness that requires detection, treatment and a plan to get through it.
Remember to Look, Listen, Talk and Seek help together.
According to the mental health experts, a young person is probably experiencing depression if he or she:
- appears unhappy, down or miserable, or cries regularly
- complains of feeling sad or empty, OR
- has lost interest or enjoyment in things he/she used to enjoy.
Everyone feels unhappy from time to time, but the thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physical symptoms of depression last for more than two weeks.
Young people experiencing depression might also be:
- not doing so well at work, school or university AND/OR
- experiencing changes in relationships with family and friends.
At the same time, they will have four or more of the following symptoms:
- Their appetite or weight has changed considerably – have lost or gained lots of weight.
- They are restless, agitated or slowed down.
- They have lost a lot of energy and/or complain of feeling tired all the time.
- They find it difficult to concentrate, think things through or can’t make up their minds.
- They feel worthless or guilty about things that aren’t their fault.
- They believe that life is not worth living, that there is no future or they’d be better off dead.
If you or someone you know, is in need of help consult a doctor, the emergency department of a hospital or a mental health professional – like a psychologist or counsellor. If you’re concerned about yourself or a friend, you can also phone Lifeline or Kids Help Line to speak to trained counsellors.
Lifeline 13 11 14
Lifeline is a 24-hour telephone counselling service where you can talk about a wide range of problems.
Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800 (freecall)
Kids Help Line is a 24-hour counselling service for people aged between five and 25. There is also online counselling available at their website:
Youthbeyondblue is the youth arm of beyondblue: the national depression initiative. Youthbeyondblue encourages young people, their families and friends to get help when it’s needed and to understand that it’s okay to talk about depression. Check out: www.youthbeyondblue.com for information about depression and anxiety, resources and interactive features or call the beyondblue info line on 1300 22 4636.
headspace is Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation. It was established in order to respond more effectively to young people with mental health, alcohol and substance use problems. headspace has sites across Australia where young people can access friendly staff and be referred to places where help is available for mental health and other health problems. Call 03 8346 8213 to find a headspace near you or go to www.headspace.org.au
ReachOut.com – www.reachout.com – provides information, support and resources to improve young people’s understanding of mental health issues, develop resilience, increase coping skills and facilitate help-seeking behaviour. With beyondblue’s support they have developed an online game for young people called Reach Out Central (ROC). www.reachoutcentral.com.au
You can also help yourself and your mates. One of the most powerful ways to fight depression is to learn how to help yourself and your friends. The key messages to remember are:
- Look for the signs of depression
- Listen to your friends’ experiences
- Talk about what’s going on
- Seek Help together.