Danny Baker is an author, life coach and mental health advocate. Today, he is going to share with us some information for those of you who may have a child dealing with depression. He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, The Elephant Journal, The Glow and The Black Dog Tribe, and has also been featured on Yoganonymous, The Daily Health Post and The International Bipolar Blog. His memoir, described by bestselling author Nick Bleszynski as “beautifully written, powerful, heartfelt, insightful and inspiring … a testament to hope”, recounts his struggle and eventual triumph over depression. It is available on Amazon. I am happy to welcome Danny Baker to share with us about depression in teens.
How many teens have depression?
According to the CDC and 2018 data from the Journal of Pediatrics, “3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.”
They also note that, “Diagnoses of depression and anxiety are more common with increased age.” And that, “Behavior problems are more common among children aged 6–11 years than children younger or older.”
What does depression feel like?
Some people might say that all teens get depressed. And they might be right. But that doesn’t mean it is no big deal. I am happy to have Danny Baker share with us today a bit about what depression is like for those who suffer from it. It is not a pretty insight but it is intended to help inspire those that need help to get help. If a loved one is showing signs of depression, try to reach out to them. They may need your help to get unstuck.
Does Your Child Suffer From Depression? If So, This Is What They’re Going Through
Signs Your Teenager Is Depressed
In the course of my work as a mental health advocate, I’ve been emailed by countless parents to teenagers suffering from depression asking me to help them understand what their kid is going through. To help shed some light on this issue, I recently posted a question on my Facebook page asking people who’d suffered from depression to describe what it felt like to parents who’d never been through it. Here were the responses:
- Depression is seeing no future, and no answer for any of the problems in your life.
- When you have depression, nothing is enjoyable. Nothing can make you smile.
- It feels like you’re a ghost … not a part of the real world.
- It’s like drowning … except you can see everyone around you breathing.
- Depression is a dark, inescapable place. It’s like being locked in a room with no light, windows or door. It’s so dark you can’t even see your hands in front of your face let alone find a way out.
- Depression is the inability to construct or envision a future.
- Slipping into depression feels like falling down a dark bottomless shaft, wondering if and when your fall will ever be caught. And as you look back to where you fell from – which is where you know you need to get back to – you can see it receding further into the distance, the proverbial light becoming dimmer and dimmer, while the shaft into which you are falling becomes deeper, darker, and all the more enveloping.
- Depression to me is like having your mind replaced by another one that makes me feel worthless and numb to life – even to my own husband and son. It deprives me of feeling anything other than a sense of perpetual sadness, never quite knowing the source of it but knowing that feeling well. Depression has stolen my confidence and now I no longer feel I am worthy of anyone’s love. Depression calls me names and makes me have awful thoughts, and there have been times when depression has won and I’ve taken an overdose.
- It’s like being stuck in a box that you can’t get out of – a very dark place where you feel so low that even simple tasks are difficult. You feel completely alone.
- A total loss of who you are.
- Standing underneath a floor of glass, screaming and banging on it trying to get the attention of the rest of the world going about their lives without you. The problem is no-one can hear you or even knows you’re trapped there.
- Depression is like the heart or the mind breaking.
- Depression is a state in which nothing tastes, smells, or feels right and you are unable to think or make decisions – yet you still have to carry on doing all those things. And so much of the time you just don’t have the energy or the desire. But you still carry on anyway.
- The belief that you just don’t matter.
- Like the death eaters in Harry Potter have caught you and sucked all the goodness from you.
- Swimming through treacle.
- Multiple emotions: fear, despair, emptiness, numbness, shame, embarrassment and an inability to recognize the fun, happy person you used to be.
- Depression is losing the desire to partake in life.
- It’s like trying to breathe when you’re covered in tar.
- Depression makes you feel like you’re an actor playing you – one that’s always forced to smile.
- Being depressed sometimes feels like tunnel vision – regardless of anything going on in your life, you can feel miserable and overwhelmed for no reason at all.
- Cancer of the soul.
- It’s just like being inside a wheel that’s spinning and spinning and you don’t know when it’s going to stop.
- Living in fog all the time – a world without color or laughter.
- Like living in a dark tunnel with no light at the end, and no air to breathe no matter how deep a breath you take.
- Feeling completely alone – even if you’re surrounded by people.
- Complete and utter hopelessness.
- Living in hell.
- Like mourning the death of someone you once loved – you. When you look in the mirror you see only dead eyes. There is no spark. No joy. No hope. You wonder how you will manage to exist another day.
- Trying to keep your head above water when it’s up to your nose. And getting deeper. And you can’t swim.
- Feeling numb inside. The world and time just passes by and nothing brings you joy.
- Feeling dark, lonely, scared. Sleep is the only escape from your pain.
- It’s like being a prisoner and the jailer both.
- Waking up to another disappointing day, and feeling that heaviness in your chest that never goes away.
- Just wanting to stand in a field and scream your head off–but you don’t know why.
- Like your mind is paralyzed.
- Depression is silence. It’s total isolation in a room full of people. It’s feeling the drag and pull of life making you smaller by the day
- Depression is like falling into a well or a deep dark hole and having no ladder to climb to help you get out of it. You get trapped in the darkness feeling cold and numb.
- It makes me feel like I’m a tiny seed stuck at the bottom of a pot plant–the more I try to grow and break free, the more dirt and soil falls on me, suffocating me and pushing me down.
- Depression is that nasty voice in my head that says things like “your mother never wanted you and that’s why she kicked you out at 15 to sleep on the streets for three months”. It shows me the mental picture of the benches I made my bed and the nooks and crannies I tried to hide in for fear of being raped. The voice also reminds me of my daughter dying and thrusting her photo in my face telling me I’m a rubbish mother. Depression for me is a force so powerful that I fear I may never be free of it.
- Being depressed is all your emotions taken away from you – apart from negative ones like sadness, anxiety and fear.
- It’s a ten tonne ball of lead in your gut that you’ve no choice but to drag everywhere with you. And you’ve got to try and look normal doing so.
- Every day is a struggle and I feel like its ground hog day – same shit, different toilet.
- Depression is a thief … it takes everything from you and leaves you to die.
- It’s peaceful water to the outside world, but a raging tsunami below the surface.
- It’s more painful than any physical pain I’ve ever experienced. And NO-ONE can see it.
- Depression is hating yourself so much you can’t look in the mirror.
- Depression is waking up wishing you’d died in your sleep.
How To Help A Teen With Depression
Parents, perhaps it’s not possible for you to understand what it truly feels like to have clinical depression unless you’ve suffered from it yourself, but the above descriptions should give you some indication of what your son or daughter is currently going through. If nothing more, they should make you realize that depression is far, far more severe than just “having the blues” or feeling “sad”.
Depression is a soul-sucking, debilitating illness – one that is so severe that it is the 3rd, 2nd and leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15-24 in the US, UK and Australia, respectively. So if your son or daughter is going through it, don’t just tell them to “pull themselves together” or to simply “get over it”. Instead, listen to them. Support them. Let them know you are there for them. And encourage them to get professional help if symptoms persist.
Is your teen depressed? It is important that you seek urgent medical care if your child is having suicidal thoughts or behaviors. But don’t wait until it get to that point. Go ahead and have them meet with a counsellor to talk it out and assess the situation before it gets that bad.
A few helpful resources:
healthychildren.org– The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) Parenting Website
suicidepreventionlifeline.org– The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.