Depression Awareness Week

With consideration of the 2013 depression awareness week (15th – 21st April), Sarah’s blog discusses why she thinks it is important to open discussions about this common mental health issue with young people.

Anyone who has suffered with depression will tell you that it can be an incredibly lonely thing to deal with, that it clouds all other emotions and can leave you asking, ‘what’s the point?’ So often people find themselves stuck in a place which seems incredibly hard to get out of and which, in the meantime, works steadily to reduce their self-esteem, sense of self, social development or interaction and all the while encourages the notion that all these painful emotions should be a thing of secrecy.

I’m a firm believer that speaking about depression, be it to friends, family or a professional can do wonders in helping to beat the black cloud; but what if young people don’t know how to open up, or even if they aren’t aware that they are depressed?

For some young people it can hard to distinguish between feeling sad and feeling depressed- how can you admit to suffering from something that you don’t know exists. If a child has suffered from an early onset of depression, it may be the case that they simply can’t remember feeling any differently, and thus the chance of them recognising that there is a problem becomes significantly slimmer.

But it’s not just about identifying the problem, for those who remain unsure as to what’s making them feel so depressed it can be a very intimidating thing to bring up. Just how do you put into words such intense and painful emotions? Articulating the problem can be a daunting task for anyone, let alone when your emotional awareness and understanding hasn’t had time to fully develop (if indeed it ever does). I consider myself to be pretty articulate, but even at the age of 23 I struggled to explain how I was feeling to others when depression raised it’s ugly head. I believe we need to find a ‘kid friendly’ way to encourage young people to talk about these issues; quite simply medical terminology and phraseology can be intimidating, frightening and discouraging if it is not understood, therefore it would be in our interest to make discussions about depression accessible and undaunting. This is where I feel unique Voice has triumphed in the past, by showing young people performances we allow them the option to disclose information about their own struggles by saying, ‘I feel like this character’, or ‘That character is a bit like me’. Though far from an entire report of their situation; this opening provides a vital window for further conversation which can lead to significant support for the child.

It seems to me, crucial that we work to bring mental health into mainstream education. Given that 1 in 4 of us will suffer at some point in our lives, surely it is in our best interest to ensure that young people are able to seek help as soon as possible to ensure early intervention which ultimately gives them the best chance of fast and effective help and recovery.

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