Depression amongst kids has increased ,according to statistics from 2013, in the UK:
Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression
Over 8,000 children aged under 10 years old suffer from severe depression
The number of young people aged 15-16 with depression nearly doubled between the 1980s and the 2000s
Depression is different from just feeling a bit down. And although people who are feeling a bit low deserve sympathy too, it is important to understand that that there is a big difference and many different forms of sadness and depression. Here is a paragraph which describes what it might feel like to be very depressed.
'I’m living under water. Everything seems slow and far away. I know there’s a world up there, a sunlit quick world where time runs like dry sand through an hourglass, but down here, where I am, air and sound and time and feeling are thick and dense'. –Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife
What kind of feeling does this give you? In this description I can feel the sense of isolation, disconnection. Knowing that there is another world out there but feeling a powerlessness to get out of it, a heaviness, so heavy that the character feels he can't move.
It highlights how depression can dominate your life and you can lose your sense of perspective, small molehills become mountains that you can't climb over and one little thing going wrong can instantly paralyse you.
Perhaps you have suffered from this kind of depression to some degree and can relate to that description, or have seen someone close to you suffer from it in this way. If you haven't then I hope that this has given you a deeper understanding of what it might feel like to be heavily depressed.
The need to understand
It is important that more people understand and appreciate the difference between deep depression (clinical depression) and feeling a bit down. So many people do not understand; they feel that people who are depressed are lazy, or just wallowing in it, feeling sorry for themselves and that they could easily pull themselves out of it. It is distressing for people who are depressed to be seen in this way, when depression is actually another form of dis-ease just as is cancer, or Parkinson's disease and people who are deeply depressed need our help and sympathy just as much as someone with cancer does.
Everyone, will at some time in their life be affected by depression....their own or someone else's,
according to Australian Government statistics. (Depression statistics in Australia are comparable to those of the US and UK.)
So this is therefore something which we all need to learn about.
What can be done?
If you are feeling depressed, sometimes you don't feel like doing anything to help yourself, you might be feeling numb. You can't just press the 'Happy button' and switch the lights all back on, if only you could. Maybe this feeling is your sub-conscious telling you that you need to just have quiet, escape for a while and be still, because you've suffered, you need to recuperate. So don't worry about trying to fight it. Feel it, watch your feelings, describe in your mind how you feel (like in the poem- but in your own words), it's real it's now. But it will be gone, remind yourself that you will come out of it and so until that time, you have to just look after yourself, love yourself, watch yourself as if you were a small child and understand, even if nobody else does.
If you feel like it, there are some things which you can do to gently remind yourself of your connection to your physical body and to the world. Try looking at your hands, really looking at your hands, when was the last time you did that? Look at the detail in the lines on your hands, your nails, think of all the things that your hands have done to help you in your life, what is your feeling towards your hands? What do you notice about them. You can then notice an object in your room, (or wherever you are), perhaps a plant. Look at the detail in it, the colour the feeling of it.
Notice your breathing, you don't need to change it, just hear it, feel it, be with it. Feel the stillness and the alertness of being in the moment, just focusing on these things.
Who is this that is noticing? There is a deeper part of you, that can quietly notice your feelings, when you are observing sadness, you are not being sad, you are observing being sad. There is a subtle difference, that is hard to explain and is better understood through experience. Finding this deeper part of yourself can give you great strength.
Lift your weight slowly from one foot to the other as you step and say to yourself ( in your head), 'Left foot' as you lift the left foot, feel the sensation of it floating in the air then the feeling on the soul of your foot as it touches the ground. Then say to yourself 'right foot' as you slowly lift the right foot move it and lower it to the ground again. Repeat this as much as you want ,as you walk slowly round in a slow but natural way. Become aware of your breathing too, the feeling of the breath as it comes in through your nose and out again through your nose, or through your mouth. Enjoy the flow of the breath and the rhythmic flow of your steps. This can feel very calming and helps to bring you into the moment.
If you are not feeling numb and unable to do anything, then try expressing yourself in some way, through art, writing, a musical instrument, singing, dancing , or anything you can think of. Don't worry about the quality of it. If you feel that it will be no good, because nobody will judge you if you don't show them. Try not to judge yourself, create something and see it for what it is, a perfect expression of you in this moment. Nobody else can do this better than you, because nobody else knows how you feel like you do.
As you release and express some of your feeling, so may feel a sense of separation from your pain and sadness, you have moved it into another form and now you can look at it as if it were not you, because it isn't you any more, it is sound, it is art, it is movement. You may even feel a strange kind of beauty in this expression. There is not beauty in pain or suffering, but there can be beauty in the expression of this suffering, as there has been throughout the existence of mankind. Think of all the fantastic pieces of music, or art that have been inspired by a sadness of some kind. How wonderful to create something beautiful, something intriguing from sadness.
As you separate from your expression of your feeling, you may begin to separate from your feelings of depression. Remind yourself that it is temporary and you will come out of it.
For most people it helps to talk about how they feel and the difficulties in their lives. If you think that it might help you, then go online to find out about any local services you may be able to access, such as counselling, or a support group. There are many different kinds of counselling and it is a question of finding the right kind of counselling and the right counsellor for you. You can contact Childline (tel: 0800 1111) for help, or Young minds (tel: 0300 123 3393), or Youth Access Tel: 020 8772 9900 (from 9.30 to 1, and 2 to 5.30).
It might be helpful to go and see your doctor, if you have been feeling bad like this for a while. Your doctor will have seen other people with depression and will be able to advise you and can direct you to local services for help.
If it is something specific which is causing your depression, for instance your parents divorcing, or some kind of abuse or bullying, then there is specific help available, which you can access through speaking to a teacher, your doctor, or contacting Childline.
Safety net recommend that children should aim to have at least four adults who they could talk to about something which was worrying them, as well as their adults at home, these could be other relatives, or friends of the family, a teacher, youth group organiser, helplines can be included on this list too. Basically someone you would feel comfortable talking to. Have a think about who might be on your 'helping hand', (each adult counts as one finger and the adults at home are the thumb).
You might find that just having someone listen to you might help you to feel a bit better, even if they don't give you any advice.
Once you start to come out of the really bad feeling again, there are some more helpful things that you can do to try and prevent the bad feelings coming again.
- Exercise Exercise can boost your endorphin and seretonin levels, which make you feel happy. There has been a lot of scientific study in this area. Have a look at my section on exercise for more information on how exercise can improve or prevent depression.
- Good nutrition The food we eat affects our mood, eating well (lots of vegetables fruit, good sources of protein and carbohydrates and not too many sweets, chocolates, white bread and fried food) will help your emotions to be more balanced and prevent the fluctuating moods and energy levels caused by too much sugary food. What we eat literaly builds our bodies and our minds, so eat well. If you want to find out more, take a look at my section on Nutrition and Obesity.
- Singing Singing as part of a group of people can be very uplifting and helps you to connect to the people and express yourself at the same time.
- Mindfulness Meditation This is something that might lead on from the more physical kinds of meditation, such as walking meditation and observing objects. It is usually easier to do the more physical kinds of meditation for when you are feeling bad. Then when you feel ready, you could try sitting still for a while and quietly observing your thoughts. This kind of meditation, is very beneficial and can help you learn how to deal with your feelings and develop a sense of calm.
The comedien Ruby Wax put it like this:
“For me mindfulness is like building a house, so the next time the tsunami that is depression comes I'll have a structure in place to resist it.”
There is a lovely book by award winning illustrator Shaun Tan, called The Red Tree, which describes the feelings of depression and the arrival of a sense of hope. It is suitable for any age, (adults too) although younger children may find it a bit scarey. you can also find it on youtube.
If you are feeling depressed, on any level, even just feeling a bit down, bear with it, don't feel guilty, just remember to be kind and understanding with yourself, perhaps try a few of my suggestions in your own time and hopefully you will find your own way of bringing yourself out of feeling bad, which will become a natural part of your life.
Let them know you're there for them
If you know someone who seems depressed, or even just a bit low, then they might like to know that you are there for them if they need a chat, (only if you feel able to support and listen to them, it is really important that your concern is genuine). Give them the space to decide for themselves, because they might prefer to just be alone for the time being, or they might want to talk but feel awkward or embarrassed about it.
Sometimes just knowing that somebody cares and is there for you if you need them is a very powerful thing and can be enough to give someone some strength to lift out of depression a little.
All SMART Coaching (Stress Management And Relaxation Techniques) are designed to provide excellent and relevant quality well-being and mindfulness training, mindfulness training in schools or with young minds and intuition, insight mindfulness training across all sectors.