July 29, 2013

Peta Petidis

A chemical imbalance of the brain. It’s a simple enough statement to define the illness, but for anyone to truly understand the depth and frustration of depression, they must live it. Fortunately for me, I don’t have it – at least I don’t think I do- but I was honoured to have the opportunity to become more aware of the reality of depression and how it surrounds us all. I thought it best to gather some knowledge from those who deal with the “darkness” that is depression, personally.  A couple of weeks ago I was met by several teenagers of the local community to discuss the factors of depression, what it is, how to deal with it and most importantly, to better understand what these young victims of the mental mystery go through each waking moment.

Not only did I speak with teens who currently have the illness, but I was also able to chat to those who are on the verge of recovery, or simply know of people with the diagnosis. These humble and incredible volunteers offered themselves as a voice to spread awareness throughout the youth and will not be identified through the piece for confidentiality purposes.

Teenagers are very often associated with the attributes of stress, anxiety, depression and urges of suicide. But does one ever really classify most of these issues as theoretically severe and regularly occurring amongst teenagers? Of course the case of suicide is a major ordeal recognised by all as a devastating and reoccurring passage of humanity, which is often swindled into teenage life. However, regrettably, many of us fail to see the warning signs and starting points which divulge a human being into such rapids of self-harm and attempted death. A leading cause of teen suicide is the most common mental illness among youth, this being depression. It is the silent killer amidst the world of adolescence with 63% of young suicide victims having psychiatric symptoms, which includes depression. I guess the statistics are there, the news reports are publicized and the stories are ever growing, but are the youth really as intuitive as they should be when it comes to such a dangerous topic that surrounds them, almost undetected?

“I would go to school two days a week at maximum, I just really isolated myself from everyone.”

“They used to tell me to kill myself, I was nothing.”

“I always thought everyone was talking about me.”

“They don’t take any notice.”

“I’d start laying into people for really small things.”

“It’s denial.”

“They didn’t want to deal with it.”

“I just became tired.”

“I’m not sure if I’m better or worse.”

“It’s like drowning,” – A simile which six strangers could all agree on.

It wasn’t so much the words that moved me throughout this knowledge gaining process, but the urgency in which these six young students beckoned through their stories as they spoke of the capture of depression. Each member of our tight fitted trust circle had openly presented how they were introduced to depression. For some it was a follow through from other disorders associated with the illness such as anxiety or eating disorders, one member of the group even gathered depression through a much more serious illness of the immune system, “At one point I was taking 52 different pills a day.”

Some speakers claimed the illness as “unexpected,” as it invited itself into their vulnerable lives. And then there were also those who were as close to the illness as possible, without obtaining it as their own, rather through family and friends. It seems to me that it is just, if not, almost as hard to live with the disorder before you, than within you, “We can tell when he’s in a bad mood.”

The actuality of teen depression is overwhelming, but how do we become better acquainted or personal with a certain individual to better understand the hardships of what they might be going through? Is it something which must be asked towards a friend acting odd, is the question ‘are you okay?’….okay? By speaking with people who weren’t often asked that simple question they replied by saying that support is best. They stress that it is imperative that no one is left on the outside. The speakers suggest that if you even have the slightest suspicion that something is wrong with a close friend or family member of yours, then you’re most likely on the ball. If they reply with a block towards you then it may be better to step back for a while before they are ready to let you in, in that case you might want to speak to a professional in concern for your loved one. When it comes to trust, a student surrounded by depression had this to say, “I feel that people with depression, they don’t trust people easy-It’s really hard for me to break through people’s walls to get them to come to me, I feel someone always needs someone else to talk to.”

“People brushing you off like it’s nothing, I feel is the worst thing to do to someone.” In any circumstance it is important to appreciate another being and their feelings, with the instance of depression, emotions are escalated to an unruly measure, therefore understanding and initiative to help is highly important, however you are urged to make sure your intentions are truly for a helpful purpose, “Sometimes they ask you in a way that they can’t be bothered dealing with you.”

“In my experience people who ask, generally don’t want the negative answer.”

“My family have only really come around to me having a mental illness this year.” Getting out and escaping the chambers of being alone with the mind, is most therapeutic for these young people. Alongside the escape, comes support which grounds them. When doing anything for themselves these individuals need love and care from those around them constantly, even if they don’t always admit to it. When acceptance in an illness is not quickly managed, it seems it can very well become a hard burden to carry on your own.

Help can come in different forms and qualities. Kindness through people is beneficial, but to reform your chemical imbalance, an extra push may be necessary, of course through psychiatrists and professionals. Medication is a jump for many and some deal with the illness without needing it, but when the decision is made to move forward and away from the difficulties which depression entails; it has been made evident that it could very well lead to a recovery. However, sometimes acknowledgments of the illness and internal growth are justified as enough. “I really wanted to get help when I came to school with bandages and long sleeves and jumpers.”

With acknowledgment to my brave student volunteers, depression has been portrayed as an influence to the mind. It absorbs words and actions and turns them into negative notions of anxiety; it eats away the good and bares the bad. According to those with the illness, depression triggers self-consciousness, doubt, loneliness, miscommunication and overall emptiness. They may only hear the bad stuff and think things like, “When people tell you, you’re not worth anything, it gets to you and you start believing it.” As I listened to the stories and mental journeys of the youth around me, I was enthralled with how they could possibly persist. It is described as a struggle, a very tight-wrenching, teeth-grinding, struggle, but in the end all you can do is focus on yourself and your reason to go on (and there always is one!!). “Get through the year, see how you go, try to get into university, and try to have a goal for your future. Keep going and get on with life.”

The message which we all must take away with us is that ever so quietly, people hurt. It is an internal injustice and an ugly reality which we all face daily. Depression is still a mystery besides its definition. For something to eat at you and practically leave you with yourself to blame for your pain and anguish is irrevocably upsetting. It’s a self-destructive disorder which plays on the mind differently to everyone else who goes through it. Tomorrow it may be you or I left to face with ourselves in hate, will you want someone beside you? To expect companionship we must exceed it ourselves with others. We could all become prisoners of the mind in time, separately, or we could deal with it together and build on a combined strength, union to surpass the pain. It has been made evident that people need people and love and friendship and kindness, and when there is such an illness that preys on you at every second of the day, you deserve to find a way out of that hole, and we, as an entire community-the youth- will be there for you. So broaden your horizon, give hope to others and remember even a smile goes a long way.

– Peta Petidis

If you or someone you know needs support you can contact:

Headspace – they’re easy to get to on the Hurstbridge line or you can contact them online or on the phone.

Kids Helpline

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