Wednesday, November 21 2012

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young people mental illness

Young people are carrying the greatest burden of mental health. Image credit: estherase | Flickr

Sometimes it’s easier to assume you feel the way you do because of ‘teenage hormones’ or the stresses you’re under as an adolescent, especially if you’re in your final years of schooling.

But when does a constant bad mood turn into depression? How do you know if you’re suffering from depression?
It can be very hard to tell, especially if you don’t know what to look for.

I was mentally unwell for over two years before I realised something wasn’t right. What I thought were just ‘bad moods’ or PMS became noticeable to the people around me. My family, peers and even teachers were starting to become concerned about my behaviour.

Young people are said to “carry the greatest burden of mental illness”.
More than 75% of all severe mental illnesses occur before the age of 25. This means that we have to be extra vigilant not only about our own health, but about our friends mental health as well.

It can be very difficult to tell if someone else is depressed, unless they confide in you or their actions show something isn’t right – but remember there are signs you need to be aware of concerning your mental health too. Just like being aware of the symptoms for a common cold, or food poisoning. If you are aware of the symptoms you can help stop it or reduce its effect on you.

One thing’s for sure, if it is affecting your daily life, if it inhibits your ability to function normally, you need to tell someone about it. It doesn’t have to be your parent or guardian if you’re not comfortable with talking to them about this issue. Remember this is you personal issue; make sure you trust whomever you tell.

Personally, I found it easier to tell someone that I didn’t know at all, but I knew I could trust.  A school councillor is a great start. They don’t go blabbing to everyone about what you’ve told them and they can assist you in getting the help you need. If you are comfortable talking to your parents or guardian, that’s great but remember it can be hard for them to hear or difficult for them to understand, so go slow.

It can be challenging for other people to understand why you feel the way you do. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I was so angry all the time, why reading a birthday card made me cry or why I couldn’t work out how much change a customer needed. It was even more difficult trying to explain to my mother why I was acting the way I was. “I don’t know!” I remember telling her, sobbing. I told her I was just miserable all the time. To me, there was no reason for it-that’s just how things were.

My mother tried to convince me to go to the doctors about it for a very long time. I refused, I was certain I could beat it on my own. I was also underestimating the power of a mental illness.
It wasn’t until my mum told me how she communicated with her doctor that I actually considered it. She said she was too nervous to talk to her doctor, so she wrote it all down on a piece of paper. She told me to be as specific as possible. So I sat down and thought about all the things I had been feeling lately…

writing down list of depression symptoms for doctors

Image Credit: Grumbler | Flickr

It took a long time to sort through it all.

I felt hopeless, I couldn’t sleep, I was angry, I had no energy, I hated myself, I couldn’t concentrate at school or work and I was beginning to have suicidal thoughts when things ‘got bad’. Some days I couldn’t even get out of bed because I had zero motivation to do anything. The only time I felt normal was when I was about to go to sleep, because I knew the constant bad thoughts in my head would be muted – even just for a little while.

So I wrote all this down on a piece of paper to give to the doctor. In my next blog I’ll elaborate on how my chat with the doctor went and what to expect in the doctors office.

Below is a list of nonspecific symptoms of depression. You don’t have to have all of these and you may even have some not on this list. If you think you’re feeling even some of these, you may need to talk to a doctor.

“In major depression, symptoms in a young person include:

  • Higher body temperature
  • Feelings of unhappiness, moodiness and irritability, and sometimes emptiness or numbness
  • Losing interest and pleasure in activities that you once enjoyed
  • Loss of appetite and weight (but sometimes people ‘comfort eat’ and put on weight)
  • Either trouble sleeping, or over-sleeping and staying in bed most of the day
  • Tiredness, lack of energy and motivation
  • Feeling worried or tense
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Feeling bad, worthless or guilty
  • Being self-critical and self-blaming
  • Having dark and gloomy thoughts, including thoughts of death or suicide.”

-Source: headspace Australia.

It’s important to mention that even if you don’t think you have depression or if you think it “isn’t that bad”, if it is having a negative effect on you life then it’s worth going to the doctor just in case. And if the doctor tells you it’s “just your age” or something equally as frustrating and you still think something isn’t right, start looking for another doctor pronto.

The risks of untreated depression are much greater than the risk of putting yourself out there and trying to get help.

-A

Thank you to A for sharing such an inspiring story, join the conversation and leave a comment below. If you need help visit our finding help page with links to great services.

If you would like more information on this topic, check out our related topic pages with videos, stories and factsheets.

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Comments

One Response to “How do you know if you’re suffering from depression?”

  1. Xin says:

    What a great blog! Thank you for your openness, your love and your desire to help other people. I remember times when I went through similar things, particularly the feeling of relief at night with the knowledge sleep was within reach.

    Can’t wait to read your next post about how things went!

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