I think a common misconception people have about depression is that it’s feeling sad- all the time. While this is certainly a part of it, often times depression presents itself in many ways other than just feeling sad constantly.
Depression is many things- it’s feeling hopeless, sad, tired, exhausted and void of any emotions at all. It’s the feeling of not being able to accomplish anything, or the feeling that you can’t even pull yourself out of bed in the morning. It’s when you burst into tears just because you burnt your breakfast. Sometimes, it even presents itself as physical pain- back aches, your joints creaking and moaning when you move, horrible migraines.
And what’s worse? Anybody can be depressed. Children, teens, adults, the elderly. Nobody is immune to depression, and yet so many people are misinformed about it and have no clue what to look out for.
When many people picture ‘depression’, they picture cut wrists and tears and “happy pills”- but this is, of course, a stereotype. While depression can be coped with in these ways, it isn’t the only coping method, and certainly isn’t a truly accurate portrayal of this mental illness.
Many teens, especially those in the arctic, suffer from depression- and yet so many are never diagnosed, never treated and never even talk to anybody about it. There’s such a stigma around mental illness and just feeling sad that many people are afraid to talk about it, let alone get the help they need for it.
In the arctic, I’ve noticed that it isn’t simply a stigma that prevents teens from speaking up- it’s also the simple lack of resources. Unless one has a referral from a doctor, it’s nearly impossible to get in for simple counseling, which can often lead to much worse things happening.
Along with this, many times, teens will even subconsciously reach out for help. It can be in the form of visible scars, or sobbing in front of your friends, or offhandedly mentioning things relating to it. Often times, people suffering from depression don’t even realize that they’re doing it. And yet, these people are often labelled ‘attention seekers’ by the people who notice, and are written off- why, you ask? The stigma.
And it’s not always the simple ignoring of these cries for help- it is also often that people simply choose to not deal with it. Many people would rather stay out of it and let somebody else deal with it, though as most can figure, when everybody chooses to do this, no help ever occurs. This is what many people refer to as being a bystander- an accurate term for the act.
I think what many people who deal with depression don’t realize is that they really are not alone. While it’s a common thing to say, it is true. An estimated 1 in 4 Canadians suffer from depression serious enough to warrant treatment- and yet so many go untreated and continue to suffer in silence.
For those who are dealing with depression, there are many resources out there for help.
As always, I would recommend giving Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) a call. As a person who has used their counseling service, I can recommend it from experience and vouch that it does help teens and children who need help.
Of course, there are many more online resources as well. As a person who has quite a fondness for lists, I have compiled a short one with several resources I recommend from experience, have had recommended to me, or have heard about via doing some research around the web:
- http://kidshelpphone.ca/Teens/Home.aspx – the website for Kids Help Phone, which now offers an online counseling service, and has many informative articles about mental illness, among other teen issues.
- http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/depression/about-depression/?o=9109 – a page which explains depression (and depressive disorders) and different treatments options, ways of helping and seeking help for depression.
- http://www.helpguide.org/home-pages/depression.htm – a site which has articles about depression, self-help and related issues
- http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/teenagers-guide-to-depression.htm – a specialized teen version of the depression help guide
- http://www.crisischat.org/faq/ – an online chat site for those in crisis (this page links to the FAQ, where it gives a detailed explanation of what to expect when you enter the chat)
- http://www.mentalsupportcommunity.net/index.php?/forum/5-depression/ – a forum where you can post about regular forms of depression and how it affects you
- http://www.recoveryourlife.com/ – a forum site specifically for those recovering from self-harm/self-injury
- http://studentsagainstdepression.org/get-support/check-suicide-and-self-harm/coping-with-self-harming-urges/ – a page for helping to deal with urges to self-harm
- http://www.helpingteens.org/ – a site dedicated to helping teens with anything and everything, including depression
- http://www.teenissues.co.uk/ – another site for helping teens with their problems
While these sites are useful, I would recommend that anybody self-harming or contemplating suicide or just simply struggling with depressive thoughts and feelings should seek help, either from a friend or family member, or from a professional.
For those who are unsure of how to seek professional help, as a person who sought help while living in the arctic, here’s a basic rundown on the way I found it most effective to get the help you need:
- Whether your regular doctor or just a general pediatrician, for youth, try getting an appointment with just a regular doctor.
- For anybody who’s gone to the hospital for appointments, you know that there is a time when they will ask a guardian (if present) to step out so they may ask you private questions. This is your window of opportunity.
- Whether it be because you don’t wish to discuss this with a guardian around, or simply because this is the time when your less physical issues are brought up by the doctor.
- The doctor will, of course, ask the basic questions. (do you drink? Do you smoke? Are you sexually active? Etc.) They will also, most likely, ask you at some point about your feelings- this is the prime moment to bring up any thoughts about depression, self-injury or suicidal thoughts.
- If, for some reason, this is not brought up, they will most likely ask right before leaving for your guardian if you have any questions- this is also a good time to bring it up to the doctor.
- While I have had many different doctors I have spoke to about my own issues, I cannot for sure say how they will handle it- they might suggest referring you to a counselor, or to the psych clinic when it’s in town. This is the hope, obviously, though I cannot assure you of what will happen.
As a note- for teens wondering, doctors are legally required to have confidentiality about what you discuss in private (as they typically explain at the start). This includes whatever you talk about involving your sexuality, gender identity or mental health. The only time this confidentiality may be breached is if the doctor is seriously concerned for your safety- this means abuse, suicidal thoughts, getting involved with seriously dangerous people. You get the drill.
While I can’t for sure promise that this method will work, I suggest that if you really want to seek professional health, you try this route- or you could always try simply immediately going to the counselors, but I’ve found that method can get you put on a very long waiting list- something most people don’t want.
For those who aren’t comfortable seeking professional help in the form of counselors, please consider the links I listed- they are very helpful, and can help you both directly or by working as a sort of online counseling by helping you to help yourself.
Good luck and good wishes to you all, and I hope you all have a wonderful summer- though it’s still pretty cold out.
-Blog post by Kiyanna