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Teenage Depression: The Two-Headed Beast
It was one o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, and the teenage girl was strewn out lazily across her futon. On the nightstand, her cell-phone vibrated. Text after text came through and all were left ignored, all from friends desperately attempting to make plans with the once lively girl. Many were lucky to even receive an electronic response – an actual face-to-face meeting was near impossible.
“School,” was always her excuse, “I have to catch up on schoolwork.”
And with twenty-six overdue assignments, with many more looming overhead as the days skipped forward, it was a valid response. Yet she made no effort to complete the assignments. “What’s the point anymore?” She had asked herself on more than one occasion, one hand wound tightly in her unwashed hair from sheer frustration. She could never get a break. There was always something to be done. Chores that no one else in the household seemed to know how to handle, friends that always seemed to need help sorting through their petty problems, and parents that nagged to no end over what she did wrong yet seemed hopelessly lost on how to praise her for what she did right. Little problems built up into a brick wall that seemed impossible for her to crack down.
And with all of the stress, she lost hope.
Just like that, the girl simply stopped. She stopped trying and she stopped caring. Goals that she had worked towards her entire life seemed to diminish before her very eyes. A feeling of worthlessness had developed so deep inside of her that everything that had once meant anything to her was suddenly forgotten. All she cared to do was to sleep, where even her dreams had begun to turn to nightmares.
If you’re a teenager, chances are you’re going to feel just like that girl at least once before you reach adulthood. And if you feel like that now, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Statistics show that about 20 percent – that’s one in five – teens will experience the struggles of depression before the end of their adolescence. And that’s not all – between ten to fifteen percent of teens have displayed symptoms of depression at any one time and seventy percent of teens with depression will experience more than one episode of it before they become adults.
The statistics don’t lie, but what do the public think of this epidemic? To find out, I created a survey and branched out to members of my family as well as contacted the connections I have on Facebook. The results were confusing. Teens felt like depression and suicide was a huge issue, rating it as most important on a scale of importance, but adults seemed to differ with that theory. Of the older takers of my survey, very few of them rated depression and suicide as a concern of even moderate importance. Substance abuse and underage drinking seemed to be their main concern, and while it is a valid issue, I and apparently other teenagers feel that depression and suicide is the issue plaguing us most. Think about it. Why do most teens turn to alcohol or drugs in the first place? Depression. Being unhappy with their everyday lives. So why not stop the problem before it leads to more?
The good news for parents is that you can help your children. Of course it’s frightening news to learn that your baby might not be the happy ball of sunshine you once thought, but just know that depression is a battle like any other. Remember when your son bought that new video game and he complained for months about how he would never defeat the two-headed beast in level eighteen? You always smiled and told him that he could do it, and that if he needed help he could reach out to an experienced friend or family member. One day he defeated that two-headed beast, after a long grueling battle of course, but when he arose from that battle he had the biggest smile on his face that you’ve likely ever seen. Depression can be compared to that two-headed beast. If your child comes to you to vent about their feelings, don’t brush it off. Know that what they’re dealing with is a serious issue for them and that your support is crucial. Encourage them. Offer professional help if needed. Give them a break. But most importantly, just love them.
If you’re a teen, know that help is available to you. There is no reason that you should have to go around feeling miserable all the time. You have one life and you should be able to live it to its fullest. Talk to your family or a trusted friend about what you’re going through. If you feel that no one will understand, call the hotline for teens dealing with depression at 1-800-273-TALK or check out http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen_teenagers.htm. Don’t be afraid to vent your feelings. Sometimes all someone needs is to let everything that they’ve kept bottled up for so long out. Surround yourself with things that make you happy and people who do the same.
Around three o’clock on that same Wednesday afternoon, the teenage girl rolled onto her side. The vibrating of her cell phone was becoming a huge nuisance, and she was tempted to just chuck the device across the room in pure fury. However, she scrolled through her unread messages first. She was greeted by the usual; forwarded chain letters, cheesy pictures that were meant to be funny, and inside jokes that she could hardly recall the punch line to anymore. But there was one that caught her eye.
It was a simple text message from a friend who had long ago moved away, writing just to say that he missed her, he loved her, and he hoped she had a great day.
A grin broke out on her lips.
The girl pushed back her blankets and got out of bed, dressing quickly before throwing open her curtains to let some sunlight into the dreary room. It would be a great day, because she would make it one. There were too many wonderful people in this world who counted on her to be the same bubbly girl that they had once known for her to spend her days moping around with a sad look upon her face. She owed it to them to step out of her pitiful cocoon. No – she owed it to herself to step out of her cocoon, and to blossom into the butterfly that she knew without doubt she was capable of becoming.
The girl turned on her computer. If she wanted to see her friends later, she would have to get started on that schoolwork she had been putting off. With a smile, she rapidly began taping out a long overdue article for her health class, her mind already swarming with ideas.
Oh, and one more thing – that girl was me.