Teen depression adds a dark layer of difficulty to an already challenging time. The Well Beings Youth Mental Health Project shines a light on teen mental health. Their upcoming web series called Out of the Dark showcases true stories of the darkness of teen depression and the strength to rise out of it to flourish. Here’s a peek at teen depression to help you recognize it and a preview of the inspirational series Out of the Dark.
Teen Depression is Real. And it Sucks.
Adolescence isn’t necessarily terrible (it can have many wonderful, exciting aspects), but it is a time of growth and change–inside the body, with your sense of yourself, your relationships, interests, and so much more. Growth and change aren’t easy at any age, and because of the unique nature of this stage of life, they can be especially challenging for teens. If you’re a teen reading this, you likely know what I’m talking about!
Feeling a lot of different moods, emotions, thoughts, and energy levels is to be expected when you’re a teen. Depression, though, is different. Depression feels more extreme and less fleeting. When you’re depressed, the ups and downs and highs and lows of life begin to feel like downs and downs and lows and lows.
Symptoms of Depression to Watch For
The American Psychological Association has a gigantic book of all the mental disorders that we know of and the things we know about them right now (the research is always changing, which is why this book is in its fifth edition). You might have heard of the DSM-5. That’s the book, and it’s short for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Medical and mental health professionals use it to guide them in helping people figure out problems they’re having. According to the DSM-5, symptoms of depression in all ages include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or empty most of the day almost every day (or having other people notice that you seem really “down”)
- In teens or younger kids, sometimes feeling unusually irritable, annoyed, or short-tempered takes the place of the traditional sadness
- Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Inability to really enjoy things or feel pleasure (you might be able to fake it, but you don’t really feel it)
- Appetite and/or weight changes (significant weight loss or gain without trying)
- Messed-up sleep (always wanting to sleep or not being able to sleep)
- Feeling agitated and restless or feeling slow, like you’re moving through jell-o with vegetables in it (other people notice that you’re restless or sluggish, too)
- Feeling worthless
- Having feelings of guilt about things you think you did wrong
- Difficulty paying attention and focusing on people and things like homework or chores
- Having a hard time making simple decisions and answering questions like “What to you want to do?” or “What do you feel like eating?”
- Repeated thoughts of death and dying
If you’re dealing with depression, you don’t feel like yourself. Worse, you don’t really know what “yourself” is. Your whole outlook and attitude change, and your behavior often changes, too.
You might have new or intensified problems in school or in your activities. Suddenly things you used to like seem pointless, and people you thought you liked begin to annoy you. It seems, too, like no one gets it. This might make you feel sad or angry.
Because of all of this, you might find that you want to quit your activities or stop hanging out with friends. It might be hard to even go to school. Why bother?
As if this weren’t tough enough, there’s a pretty good chance that you feel guilty about all of it. This guilt might make you mad at people: They don’t even understand you, so why are you feeling bad for not being yourself? Your feelings might be all over the place, and this can make it really hard to like yourself. Self-esteem comes and goes during the teen years; depression makes it “go” and almost disappear.
Depression is an Illness, Not a Weakness
Depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Depression is a medical illness. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, about 5 percent of teens experience at least one episode of major depressive disorder, and that number makes depression one of the most common medical illnesses in adolescence.
The fact that depression is an illness is surprisingly good news. It means that it can be treated. You’re not doomed to live in darkness. (Some people of any age think that the only escape from depression is suicide. This isn’t true! If you are in crisis or are feeling suicidal, please get immediate help. Call 9-1-1, go (or have someone take you) to your local hospital’s emergency department, or reach out the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They’re available 24/7 via online chat or phone (1-800-273-8255).
To increase awareness about teen depression, the organization Well Beings has created Out of the Dark, a powerful online documentary series that shows real stories of struggle and triumph.
Out of the Dark: An Amazing Documentary Series from Well Beings Youth Mental Health Project
The public media station WETA’s Well Beings Youth Mental Health Project, spotlights mental health through authentic storytelling. Well Beings and Redglass Pictures partnered to produce Out of the Dark. The documentary series features the stories of three people who struggled with depression and developed the strength to climb up out of the dark that is depression.
Raven Saunders, AKeem Rollins, and Hannah Lucas sometimes appeared successful, fine on the outside. Inside, the each lived in the depths of despair. They all persevered, returned from the brink of suicide, and are thriving. They are all mental health advocates boldly sharing their stories to help and encourage teens who are facing their own mental health challenges.
Raven, AKeem, and Hannah each share their unique story in their own episode. Out of the Dark will stream monthly on Wellbeings.org beginning in the Spring of 2021. Catch the trailer:
Depression is tough. May these stories show you that it is possible to have mental toughness, to triumph over challenges.