Depression is more than just the blues---when you’re feeling down for more than a couple of weeks, you may be clinically depressed. Clinical depression is a serious health problem that affects you as a whole---it can change your feelings, behavior, physical health and appearance, academic performance, social activity, and ability to handle everyday decisions and pressures.
Suicide is also linked to depression, and in the last 25 years, the rate of suicide among teens has increased dramatically.
Helping the Depressed Person
The best thing you can do to help a depressed person is to encourage them to get treatment and be emotionally supportive---be understanding, patient, affectionate, and encouraging. Have a conversation with the person and listen carefully.
Encourage the depressed person to join you in fun activities, such as hobbies or sports, but do not push them to do too much too soon. The depressed person needs distractions and company, but too many demands can be overwhelming and increase feelings of failure.
Do not accuse the depressed person of faking illness or laziness, or expect them "to snap out of it." Eventually, most depressed people will get better with treatment.
Know the Symptoms
The first step toward defeating depression is to define it. Many people who are depressed have a hard time thinking clearly or recognizing their own symptoms. They may need your help---if you notice a friend or friends with any of these symptoms persisting longer than two weeks
- Unable to concentrate and remember?
- Have lost interest or pleasure in ordinary activities like sports, band, or talking on the phone?
- Have problems with school and family?
- Have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up?
- Appetite problems---are they losing or gaining weight?
- Get headaches, stomach aches, backaches, or chronic aches in their joints and muscles.
- Talked about death, suicide, or have attempted suicide?
If a friend has these symptoms---Get Help!
Myths about Depression
There are lots of MYTHS about depression. You need to know the FACTS. Here are some common ones:
MYTH: It's normal for teens to be moody. Teens don't suffer from "real" depression.
FACT: Depression can affect anyone---all ages, races, ethnic or economic groups. Including teens!
MYTH: Teens who claim to be depressed are weak and just need to pull themselves together. There's nothing anyone else can do to help.
FACT: Depression is not a weakness---it’s a serious health disorder. Both teens and adults who are depressed need professional treatment. A trained therapist or counselor can help.
MYTH: Telling an adult that a friend is depressed is betraying their trust. If someone wants help, they’ll get it.
FACT: Depression affects a person's ability or wish to get help. Many parents do not understand the seriousness of depression or thoughts of death or suicide. As a friend, you should share your concerns with a school guidance counselor, favorite teacher, your parents, or another trusted adult.