We all feel low at times in our life. We can feel like no-one understands us, that others are putting too much pressure on us or that our friends are more popular or better than us. Depression can be a very physical experience with extreme fatigue in body and mind.
It’s natural to feel bad sometimes, but when we feel like this for weeks at a time with no break, it’s possible that we may have a bout of depression and we need to get help with it.
- Depression is a really common condition that affects up to 10% of teenagers at any one time. It affects how we feel about ourselves and others, makes us feel tired all the time, causes us to lose interest in hobbies, school and friendships, and it makes us want to hide away from the world.
- Although depression can be hard to deal with and we can feel scared, it’s important to remember that there are many ways that we can help ourselves and many supports that we can access to help us get through it.
- Talking to your parents is important. You may think that they can’t possibly understand but it is vital that you give them the opportunity to help. Finding the words to describe what you’re feeling can be hard, but it’s really important to try.
- As with any health problem, it’s important to see a GP to find out exactly what’s going on. Some physical health issues can cause similar symptoms to depression and no matter what the cause is, help is available. Hormonal changes that we go through in adolescence can have an impact on mood too, so checking in with someone who knows about these things can give us a lot of reassurance.
- Exercise and spending time outdoors is important to help lift our mood and reduce stress and anxiety. It can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise so try to build it into your everyday routine – can you walk to school? Take a brisk stroll around the block at lunchtime? The more you practice, the more it will become part of your routine and it will make you feel better.
- Eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Sugary foods lead to a sharp drop in blood sugar later and this leads to energy and mood slumps. Caffeine causes increased heart rate and interferes with sleep; remember fizzy drinks like Coke contain caffeine too.
- Alcohol is a depressant and can prove a potent trigger to low mood, especially in individuals prone to depression. The human brain is still developing until the age of 25 so street drugs like cannabis can have a devastating impact on mental health as well.
- Many people find writing useful and it can have therapeutic benefits. Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself a writer: simply writing a few sentences at the end of each day can help to relieve some concerns, and looking back over things you have written previously can show how far you have come. No one need ever read what you have written. If you need help getting started, check out our Mood Diary template.
- Above all, do not try to deal with depression on your own. Reach out to family and friends, and where help and support is offered, take it. Remember – you are not alone.
Challenging stigma to improve young people’s mental health - Dr Eilis Hennessy
Can computer games support good mental health in children? - Dr Gary O’Reilly and Conall Tunney
If you would like to do some further reading, please see Aware's Recommended Reading List.