Teens talk, but not about depression

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Depression is the hidden illness that teens don't want to talk about.

If it were any other illness, such as cancer, diabetes or the flu, they wouldn't mind sharing that information. But when it comes to depression, teens' lips freeze shut, along with the sudden halt in their minds and everyday life.

Fifty-four percent of people believe depression is a personal weakness, according to the National Mental Health Association. Yes, it's incredibly hard to understand a depressed teen's thinking, but believe me, no person chooses to feel this way.

None of it seems to make sense except to the depressed teens themselves. Depression causes the sufferer to believe that life can't ever get better. Like a hamster on its wheel, they run and run and run, but stay in the same place. The situation feels never-ending. You block out reality and find yourself in a fantasy that you've made yourself believe.

When you're depressed, you have a debilitating imbalance in your life and experience a horrendous struggle to find some way, any way, to find balance. After feeling so much pain, you become numb.

A fearful sort of paranoia can paralyze a depressed person, as though it's you against the world. It's hard trusting anyone. That can cause depression to worsen because you keep emotions bottled up. You persistently feel you're worthless, and because you think that, you believe no one can love you. It doesn't matter how many times someone tells you that you're loved or that you're special, you cannot bring yourself to accept it. The shame starts to form and you feel disgusted, worthless and alone. How could you tell others? What will people think?

One characteristic that those who experience depression have in common is that it's not something within your complete control. It's not as though a depressed person tries to avoid explaining what is wrong; it's just that you can't. You don't know the root cause of your feelings.

Counseling is an effective way to help recovery because a professional can guide you to break down everything going on in your life in an organized way so that you can look at it, think it over and find the cause yourself. Once a person has uncovered the roots of his or her feelings, it's a lot easier to try to feel better. You can figure out how to get rid of or better cope with your issues. Most doctors advise a combination of therapy and antidepressants.

It's estimated that ten percent of the adult population experience depression. Pre-schoolers are the fastest-growing diagnosed population. Although we cannot eliminate this illness, the public needs to gain a greater understanding. When you see symptoms in someone you know, don't brush it off. Do something, because many times it turns out to be more serious than most people would ever guess.

The most important thing you can do is be a friend. Make sure they are able to talk to you, and if you have concern, share it. Many people get angry when you confront them because it may be a shock. In the end, they will thank you for it. Nobody wants to be left with the feeling that they could have done something more.

• Lindsay Olson is a student at Yakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School.

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