STRONG MIND: LET’S TALK ABOUT DEPRESSION

Meet Jillian Desiderio. Every issue, Clinical Social Worker Jillian Desiderio talks to us about keeping our minds strong.  This fall, Jillian responds to Lindsay Wheeler’s article on depression.

In Lindsay’s article, she showed us that with the right support and help she was able to overcome and fight against her depression. I want to make sure that you know that you can do the same. There is always help and there is always hope.

So what is depression? Depression is a serious mental health problem that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities. It affects how you think, feel, and behave, and it can cause emotional, social and physical problems. Depression is different than just feeling sad, and it’s the prolonged or persistent feeling that makes it different. 

There are many reasons why someone might become depressed. As an example, adolescents can develop feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy over their grades or overall school performance.  Social relationships and social conflicts as well as family strife can all have a major effect on how an adolescent feels.  

It is important to acknowledge that being an adolescent comes with many changes. Not just the obvious physical changes such as growing breasts and starting your periods, but emotional changes as well. It is very normal to feel sadness, confusion and irritability, and to have shifts in your moods when you’re a teenager. It’s certainly not easy navigating school, family, and friendships, so you may experience a mix of feelings on any given day. When these feelings become persistent and negatively impact your ability to function then you may be suffering from depression. 

The following are a list of possible signs of depression in adolescent girls:

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Poor school performance
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you are experiencing any of the signs above you MUST seek help. You may feel embarrassed or scared to talk to someone about depression. You might also feel like it’s your fault that you are depressed. I can promise you it’s never anyone’s fault when they become depressed. It’s something that just happens and you are not to blame. You are worthy of help and support. 

For some reason, talking about depression has always been taboo. Luckily, people such as Lindsay are becoming advocates for mental health and helping erase the stigma associated with depression and other mental health issues. It is absolutely OK and totally understandable if you feel embarrassed, ashamed, or scared, but please know it will be worth talking to someone and that sharing how you feel with someone is an important first step towards feeling better.

You can and you will feel better, but you will need support and help to get there.

Sometimes it’s just about finding the right person to help you. Finding an adult who you can talk to is not always easy. A good place to start is with one of your parents or your guardian. Talk to them about your feelings and tell them that you’re concerned that you may be depressed. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your parents or guardians then there are plenty of other adults who you can talk to and share your feelings with. Talk to a teacher at school that you trust, or make an appointment to see your school counsellor or your guidance counsellor. Other adults you can approach are a school nurse, your pediatrician, or a coach. Whether it be a parent/guardian, someone on this list, or another trusted adult you know, please talk to them. If they don’t listen, don’t understand or don’t believe you, keep talking to an adult until someone listens and offers a plan for help and support. 

Sometimes, the road to feeling better might include talking to a therapist. Some people are daunted by the prospect of talking to a stranger about their problems. You should know that a therapist will keep what you talk about confidential. This means whatever you talk about stays between you and them. The only exception to this is if they believe you are in danger. They are trained to help people who are struggling like you are and can help you develop skills and strategies to help you cope with your depression.  

Some people find they need to be prescribed medication to help improve their mood. This is something you would discuss with the doctor as well as your parent/guardian. Medication is not always necessary and a doctor will help determine if it is something you need and monitor if it helps. It is never OK to take medication without permission from your parent/guardian and a prescription from a doctor. 

Taking something that has not been prescribed for you could not only make your depression worse, but could also lead to serious problems. 

Most importantly, please hear me when I say this...

YOU CAN FEEL BETTER. 

Depression does not have to last forever or hold you hostage. With support and guidance you absolutely can and will feel better. Although it may not be easy to open up and ask for help, it will be worth it. You may feel alone, but you are not alone. You may feel hopeless, but there is always hope. It just may take a little while to see that for yourself! 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE! 

Depression affects around 20% of adolescents before they reach adulthood.

CAUSES OF DEPRESSION

Teenage depression can be a result of many factors. For example: verbal or physical abuse, bullying, or the death of a loved one.

WHO’S AT RISK?

 Gay, bisexual, and transgender teens are at increased risk of depression.

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION

The National Suicide Prevention Line: 1 (800) 273-8255

NAMI The National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1 (800) 950-6264

Or text “NAMI” to 741741 to find help near you.

OK2talk.org Forum for teens to share their feelings and discuss mental health.

ABOUT STRONG MAGAZINE

This piece was originally published in STRONG, a new magazine aimed at tween and teenaged girls that seeks to break the mold. While many other publications for this age group focus on celebrities, STRONG focuses on real girls with diverse interests. While other publications focus on body image and fashion, STRONG focuses on keeping a healthy body and mind. STRONG also presents great role models - girls who have overcome adversity and thrived, and women who are breaking glass ceilings in areas previously dominated by men. Visit www.strongmagazineforgirls.com to learn more.