Middle and high school can be a challenging time for everyone.
The independence and expectations can be a lot of fun, but they can also be stressful and scary. Your classes are more demanding, friendships can become complicated, and planning for the future can seem like a heavy weight. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and down at times. However, when you or someone you know feels that way for more than a couple of weeks, it might be a sign of depression and time for you to ACT.
ACT - Acknowledge, Care, Tell
It’s normal to have bad days. If we didn’t, we might not appreciate all the good ones! But, what happens when those bad days stack up, or you can’t help feeling lousy? People often say they are “depressed” about something but then they seem happy the next day, so it’s hard to understand the difference between a bad day and depression.
Signs of Depression
- Lasting – feeling a strong mood that involves sadness, discouragement, despair, or hopelessness that lasts for a couple of weeks or more
- Difficulty concentrating – it can be difficult to focus on school work or other things when someone is depressed
- Negative thinking – a person who’s depressed may see everything as bad and unlikely to get better
- Low energy – sometimes, people with depression don’t have much energy to get up and do what they used to enjoy
- Easily irritated – depression can show up as a lasting mood of feeling irritable, easily annoyed, or angry
NOT Signs of Depression
- Disappointed one afternoon because of a poor test grade
- Feeling sad over an argument with a friend
- Discouraged because your team is continuing its losing streak
Myth: Talking about suicide puts the idea in someone’s head.
Fact: You don’t make a person suicidal by talking about suicide. The opposite is true. Bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
Myth: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
Fact: Almost everyone who dies by suicide has given some clue or warning. Don’t ignore suicide threats. Statements like, “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” or “I can’t see any way out” – no matter how casually or jokingly said – may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
Myth: If a person is determined to kill themselves, nothing is going to stop them.
Fact: Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death. Most suicidal people don’t want death; they want the pain to stop. The desire to end it all, however powerful, doesn’t last forever.
Myth: Teens who claim to be depressed are weak and just need to pull themselves together. There’s nothing anyone else can do to help.
Fact: Depression isn’t a weakness; it’s a serious health disorder. Both young people and adults who are depressed need professional treatment. A trained therapist or counselor can help them learn more positive ways to think, change behaviors, cope with problems, or handle relationships. A physician can prescribe medications to help relieve the symptoms of depression. For many people, a combination of therapy and medication is beneficial.
Myth: It’s easy to tell when people are depressed because they cry all the time and withdraw from friends and family.
Fact: While down mood and withdrawal are some signs of depression, some symptoms are not as well known. Your friends may seem irritable or anxious. They may have no energy and feel tired but have trouble sleeping; or they may sleep too much. They may lose their appetite or overeat leading to weight changes. Only a professional can diagnose depression.
Healthy Coping Strategies
Between challenging classes, extracurriculars, and managing relationships with families and friends, it can be easy to forget how to take care of yourself. Healthy coping strategies are really important to help you deal with stress.
Writing down your feelings can be really helpful to manage stressful situations. You can learn more about yourself if you spend a few minutes reflecting about your day in a journal. If you have trouble getting started, try jotting down a few lines of your feelings or three things you’re grateful for that day.
Physical activity is healthy for your body and mind by boosting your mood. Exercise can come in many forms such as running, biking, playing a sport, or even just walking your dog each day. You should try to exercise for at least 2.5 hours a week and try activities that both raise the heart rate and work different muscle groups in your body.
Eating well can make you feel better. Aim for three balanced meals per day which include fresh fruits and vegetables; low-fat dairy like milk and yogurt; proteins such as chicken, fish, and beans; whole grains like brown rice or wheat bread; and healthy fats such as avocados and nuts.
It’s also important to drink enough water to keep your body hydrated. To calculate how much you need, take your weight and divide it by two. The number is how many ounces of water you should drink each day.
People with social connections have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Try new hobbies where you can be around people and make new friends. This might include volunteering at your local animal shelter or joining a club at your school.