What is depression?
Depression is more than feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. It is not unusual to go through
of feeling down.
When do I know if I am suffering from depression?
‘I’m depressed!’ is an expression that is often used when feeling sad or miserable. Depression, is when your mood and the feeling of sadness begins to affect your everyday life and persists for weeks or months. There can be many reasons for feeling sad, and some begin because of life events and other times there can be no obvious reason.
Being depressed can mean being in low spirits and does not stop you from leading a normal, functioning life, but it can make things feel a little harder and you may not gain as much pleasure or satisfaction from them as you used to. Depression at its worst can be life threatening.
What can the signs be in a young person?
The psychological symptoms of depression include:
• continuous low mood or sadness
• feeling hopeless and helpless
• having low self-esteem
• feeling tearful
• feeling guilt-ridden
• feeling irritable and intolerant of others
• having no motivation or interest in things
• finding it difficult to make decisions
• not getting any enjoyment out of life
• feeling anxious or worried
• having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
The physical symptoms of depression include:
• moving or speaking more slowly than usual
• changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
• unexplained aches and pains
• lack of energy
• changes to your menstrual cycle
• disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning
The social symptoms of depression include:
• avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
• neglecting your hobbies and interests
• having difficulties in your home, work or family life
How can I support myself or a young person who is depressed?
It is important to acknowledge that there is no quick fix to depression. It takes time, energy and work, all of which you may be a challenge when you are not feeling energetic or motivated. Taking an active part in your treatment will help your situation.
Self-care is a way of looking after yourself and managing your symptoms. The main areas are; diet, exercise, daily routine, relationships and how you are feeling.
• eat regular meals,
• avoid skipping meals,
• eat a healthy balance of fat and reduce the amount of trans-fat you eat,
• eat fruit, vegetables and wholegrains,
• eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring or trout,
• drink 6-8 glasses of water per day,
• limit your caffeine in drinks such as tea, coffee or fizzy drinks, and
• limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
• Going for a walk: You could get a pedometer or an app that counts your steps. Slowly challenge yourself to walk more steps and reach a goal.
• Cycling: Make sure you wear a helmet and high visibility vests or chest strap. Stick to quiet roads if you aren’t confident on a bike.
• Gardening: There may be a local NHS or charitable gardening scheme in your area. Ask your GP, volunteering services or social services.
• Projects: You can check your area on ‘The Conversation Volunteers’ website to see if there are any projects in your area. Their details are in the 'Useful Contacts' section'
• Jogging: Try jogging around the block to start with. Then slowly increase the amount of time you jog for, or the distance you go.
• Playing a sport: Try speaking to friends or family to see if they will join you in a sport. Or join a local club. You could also look at individual sports.
• Gym: As well as indoor gyms, there are free ‘green gyms’ all across the country. See ‘The Conversation Volunteers’ website for more details.
• Housework: Doing housework in an active way can be good exercise.
• Try to plan and stick to a routine. It may be more manageable if you let your loved ones know how you manage your day so that they are able to support you to do this.
• Have a clear idea of a bedtime routine and practise ‘clean sleeping’. Especially on weekdays, try to plan an hour of relaxation before bed each night. Avoid screen time, as this keeps your brain active when you are trying to send it to sleep. Perhaps taking a bath, reading a book, meditation, or spend time catching up with family will help your body to wind down ahead of hitting the pillow.
• Try to actively pursue interactions with friends and family. This can be a very difficult thing to do, but be clear in your head as to what you can manage so that, although it can be challenging, it will still be possible.
• If you are able to (or perhaps with some support) let your loved ones know how you are at that moment so that there is an understanding between you, to limit misunderstandings.
Understanding your mood
• This is an area you may need to have support with. It is helpful to have those around you understand the importance of being able to articulate how you are on any given day. We live in a ‘I’m fine’ culture, if each family can begin to change this way of being at home, one day we will have a different, more emotionally accepting culture.
• Activities like journaling, drawing, creating music, dancing, creative writing are all great mediums for creative expression that tap into our emotional state. And if you don’t understand what it all means, bringing these pieces of work into therapy can be very enlightening.
• Producing a colour chart on a calendar to note what mood you are in on the day can show patterns and changes.
Where or who do I go to for support?
A low mood may improve after a short time and allowing some time for this is important. However, we would advise you make an appointment with your GP if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than 2 weeks. It is also important that the many hormonal changes can impact on your mood.
As always, we would encourage you to come and talk to a member of staff at school. This could be a teacher you trust, your tutor, Head of Year, a member of the Student Support Hub or the Safeguarding team. It is important to know that members of staff will share this disclosure with the Safeguarding team as part of their duty of care, this is because your safety is paramount.
Students spend a lot of their day at school and depression can impact on all areas of your life. By letting us know we can liaise with outside agencies for support and strategies to enable you to make the most of your school day.
Useful Contacts and Further Information
• NHS App Library of self-help and self-management apps
• NHS Tips for Coping with Depression
• Organisations that offer individual help and support
Reading – these books tackle difficult subjects; many are fictional and some are self-help books. It can be helpful to know that you are not alone, and these books go some way in addressing that.
• ‘I'll Give You the Sun’ by Jandy Nelson – is a novel that is about difficulties and struggles and how perspective can change your thinking.
• Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed by Nicola Morgan
• Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens: Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens: Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills for Helping You Manage Mood Swings, Control Angry Outbursts, and Get Along with Others by Sheri Van Dijk, MSW
• Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. The author of this book uses his own experiences with mental illness, crafts an honest, thoughtful, and heartfelt story about a girl struggling with obsessive thoughts and the fugitive billionaire she’s pursuing.
• Free Verse by Sarah Dooley. This book offers a heartfelt and touching look at tragedy, depression, and acting out. Suffering from insurmountable grief, Sasha loses her voice and nearly loses herself in the process. It is only with the help of poetry and new relationships that Sasha finds herself and her voice again.
• ‘Running on the Cracks‘ by Julia Donaldson. This book is a tense run away thriller. It addresses issues about abuse, mental health, mixed race families and loyalty.