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On Depression
(What is it, why do people get it, what to do).

Many of us have heard the word "depression" before and many think they have a vague notion of what it is but we're still never really quite sure if a feeling we have is depression, or if it's something else that's troubling us. For this reason, I thought it was important to highlight it's symptoms and causes, as well as what can make it go away.

What is depression?
Depression is a medical illness, just like a cold and, just as a cold that gets worse until it evolves into the flu, sadness that evolves into depression can be treated with medicine and with counseling. Contrary to popular belief, we do not have to remain in pain!

What are the symptoms?
Well, if it's a medical illness, it should have symptoms. What are they? There are many symptoms to depression that include:

  • change in appetite
  • change in sleeping habits
  • low performance in school/work
  • increased irritability/agitation
  • guilt
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • feeling 'empty' or 'numbed'
  • feeling overwhelming sadness
  • feeling fatigued
  • loss in interest in things once enjoyed
  • thoughts of suicide/self-harm.

All of the above are symptoms of depression.

What causes depression?
There are as many causes for depression as there are people. It can be triggered by a life changing event; good or bad, such as a divorce, break up, death, marriage, birth of a child, etc. An overload of stress can also lead to depression. It can also be triggered by little things that just keep building until you feel you're in a hole that can't be helped. Depression is individualized, which means that there is not a set "cause" - something that causes depression in one may not affect another at all. There is also something called "Seasonal depression" in which a person feels normal and happy in all months except winter. This is probably brought about by the natural decrease in light and the lessened ability to be outside.

Can depression be treated, and, if so, how?
Yes, it can be treated. There are many ways of overcoming depression, including medicine. Medicine helps because when you are depressed, there is an imbalance in your body's chemicals and medicine helps balance that back again. The number one way, though, is counseling and talking. Other healing "tools" include

  • Staying in lighted areas: Light has been proven to even reverse the effects of depression
  • Moving even when you don't want to When we do nothing, boredom sets in and with boredom, we start to think about the pain, which only makes it worse so moving, even if just to walk around the block helps.
  • Journal/diary writing
  • Keeping a list that records every good thing that happens every day helps remind us life isn't all bad.
  • Becoming involved in school activities or youth groups.

How long does depression last?
Well, again, this depends upon the person, but on average if the person is not suicidal or self-harming themselves, then studies have shown that depression usually goes away within six months, if left untreated. However, do you really want to endure the symptoms of depression every day for six months? Probably not which is why asking for help is the best bet. With help, depression heals much faster. If a person is suicidal, then if depression is left untreated, it can really lead to suicide.

If you are depressed, are you crazy?
No. Studies have shown that the majority of the population will experience depression at least once in their lives. Depression comes from life. Though a wonderful gift, life does have it's challenging, difficult moments and because we're human, it's natural for us to be affected by those events. Depression does not mean you're crazy: it simply means you need a friend.

Hopefully, these answers have given you a little more insight into depression. With knowing that it's an illness that can, and definitely should, be treated, I hope it will encourage you to reach out to your school counselor, your youth minister, parent, teacher or other trusted adult for help. You are worthy of life and you are loved.