Depression is a serious mental illness that can affect teenagers. If you, or someone you know, has some of the following symptoms, it’s time to get help:

  • Sadness or crying that is hard to explain
  • Changing the way you eat (maybe overeating or not eating)
  • Feeling grumpy, irritable, cross or restless
  • Being worried or anxious
  • Feeling negative, guilty or worthless much of the time
  • Sleeping more or having trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Not enjoying the things you usually enjoy
  • Not wanting to spend time with your friends
  • Feeling tired a lot of the time or lacking energy
  • Aches or pains that don’t go away
  • Thinking about death or suicide

This excellent US website explains more about what depression is. Have a look at our advice here on how to get help.

Rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 70 per cent in the past 25 years. One in 5 of us will suffer from depression often accompanied by anxiety. It is a sort of blanket we emotionally bring down to try to smother out feelings that can’t be borne. It is a ‘note to self’ that something is wrong but we usually don’t know what that is or how to express it. It’s also confusing as there will be several factors acting together that end up making us depressed.

So we go into a foggy place that can become a very real and sometimes dangerously debilitating illness that can include suicidal thoughts. If your ‘down feeling’ is more than a ‘low mood’ and doesn’t lift – and it gets in the way of enjoyment or studying or feeling ‘normal’ – listen to your instinct. Read the information and advice on the NHS website here. Talking really does help, either to friends, a parent, a teacher or another trusted adult. A counsellor or therapist will be able to help you to understand your own depression and leave it behind. No-one should try to ‘talk you out of it’ or pretend your feelings are not important – they are important.

It can feel so difficult to even bother to try to lift the blanket – sometimes it even feels strangely comforting to stay under it, like a duvet, a place we can use to escape the world and not make the effort to struggle out from under it. But the blanket is smothering not just the difficult feelings, but all feelings, so that the whole of life becomes grey or even very black.

The only way out to some light is to take a first step and listen to the tiny voice inside you that might be trying to get you to lift the blanket, learn what is actually the problem and solve it. No-one is alone with depression if they start to tackle it. And it absolutely can be helped, managed and overcome. Simple things like exercise also help a lot, but the main difficulty can be making the first effort to change things when life feels so difficult. But change is always up to each of us, and what we decide to do with our lives is our choice. Implement your choice.