Nearly 300,000 young people in Britain have an anxiety disorder. On top of that, 55 per cent of people who have been bullied as children develop depression as adults, and 1 in 4 young people in the UK experience suicidal thoughts due to depression.
Most of this will go unnoticed, unless others know what signs to look out for.
It isn’t easy for young people to communicate that they are struggling, as sometimes they feel like they are over-exaggerating or that they are ‘making a big issue’ and would rather just stay quiet. Staying silent is one of the worst things someone who is suffering with depression can do.
One of the most important things about depression is being able to spot the early warning signs, so you can intervene and get someone the help they need. Talking to Ben Laskey, a Child Psychologist, he tells me that a few of the signs that someone is suffering with depression are: irritability, anger, sadness, problems with friends, and sometimes an increase in substance abuse.
He explained that depression can hit anyone at any age, although more females are diagnosed with depression than males. According to a study by the Mental Health Foundation, rates of depression in young people have increased by 70 per cent in the past 25 years.
I spoke to Adam*, a 24 year old who was diagnosed with depression at 18. He explained to me that having depression made him feel ‘like he was trapped in a box with no way out and no matter how much you shouted no sound came out’.
Sitting down with Adam, he opened up to me about his experience with depression. He was at university and really outgoing when over the course of a few weeks he suddenly became distant, angry and more irritable with his family and housemates.
After a few months he had no one left who wanted to speak to him because they were afraid of what his reaction would be, and this made his mood worse as he was constantly ‘trapped inside his own head’. He told me that he sank further into what he describes as a black hole, and that he was afraid to ask his family and friends for help because he thought they would think he was being dramatic.
Philo Holland, a Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, says that depression can be hugely disruptive to a young person’s education in the sense that they stop attending and fall too far behind, but also when they do attend you can see that the young person has no confidence. This was true for Adam, he stopped going to university and his work started to suffer. This further fuelled his own self doubt, making him feel like he was a failure.
Adam started to have suicidal thoughts and at this point he knew he had to get help, because as he told me: “Even though the majority of me didn’t want to live, there was a tiny voice in the back of my head screaming no, I do want to live”.
For Adam, this meant going to his university GP, counselling and taking anti-depressant medication. Ben says that for anyone suffering with depression your GP should be your first point of call, as they can point you down the different routes of treatment that they feel would be best suited for you.
Another way of getting support is through organisations such as Young Minds, one of the UK’s leading charities for mental health. Speaking to their Media and Campaigns Manager, Nick Harrop, he tells me that they can point young people to useful helplines such as Child-line and the Samaritans, who can provide further support.
He also mentioned that they offer advice to the young person’s family, which for Adam was a key factor when he heard about them, as he knew it was hard on them too. According to Nick, a few key things they tell parents are to listen, be patient and never judge.
Adam highlighted some other key places to go and things to do to help if you’re suffering with depression. First off there are a ton of helplines and charities, including Friends In Need (MIND), Depression UK, Young Minds, Samaritans and Epic Friends – this was an important one for Adam as it’s a site that helps your friends to help you. In hindsight he wished that he had reached out to his friends in the first place, so he had their support.
Secondly, as simple as it may sound, getting some exercise can be a massive help, as well as doing things that make you happy – whether this is reading a book, riding a bike or simply having a cuppa.
Finally, getting psychological help can be really useful for some people. As Ben says: “It provides a safe, confidential and supportive environment where you can unpack some of the difficult feelings you have”.
Adam says he was sceptical about this kind of help at first, but after a few sessions he now swears by it.
Depression isn’t something that is solved overnight, it takes time and Adam himself says that he is still going to therapy, but that it has got better. Whether it takes a week, months or years, persevere with the help that you seek out and gradually things will improve.
Adam’s advice for anyone suffering with depression is firstly, it isn’t your fault, and secondly you should get help – as hard as it may be to make that first confession to a friend, family member or GP, it’ll be worth it in the long run. He says that going somewhere that someone will listen is essential, and even though talking about it may not feel like it is going to help it will- it’s the first step.
If you’re suffering with depression you can contact:
Samaritans – 116 123 or [email protected]
Young Minds – www.youngminds.org.uk
Friends in Need/MIND – 020 8519 2122
Or alternatively you can go to your family doctor and take the first step towards making yourself feel better.
*Name has been changed.