Depression is like a sleeping, dangerous beast. The beast is always there, dormant maybe, but at some point, it will wake, just as depression can suddenly become overwhelming. Depression feeds off of insecurity and fear. The grasping claws leave gaping scars that cannot be seen. Lack of community support is like poking the beast, aggravating it until it rears its head and roars.
In the United States, depression and anxiety affect 2.7 million teens aged 12-17. Nearly 60% of those youths suffering from major depression do not have access to mental health treatment. Youths might resist seeking help because of negative social stigma. Because of this, many take it upon themselves to find out the problem. Studies by the Mental Health of America show that 77% of young people were likely to seek the internet for help concerning their issues. However, the lack of reliable help and the negative social stigma has severely crippled the youth in America.
Depression is a serious mood disorder that can negatively affect one's ability to function normally. Depression is a leading cause of disability in
the United States, according to the United Nations health agency. Depression affects one's day-to-day life by causing fatigue and lack of interest in formerly engaging activities.
Depression is the most treatable of all mental illnesses. About 60 percent to 80 percent of depressed people can be treated successfully through psychotherapy, medications, and other interventions, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Despite this, there is no one-size-fits-all cure.
Although various additional coping mechanisms exist, the widely accepted one is seeking professional help. Psychotherapy or talk therapy is a common go-to for people who have depression. In talking through the issues, one can develop new ways of thinking and behaving. Having an unbiased observer can offer a previously unknown narrative and increase one’s self-awareness.
Sharon Tooson, a former Sora Schools counselor, affirms “it always goes back to the old saying. Knowledge is power, so the more that we can learn about ourselves and how we function in those trauma moments or bouts of depression, the better.”
Despite the universally accepted importance placed on psychological help by the psychological community, studies by various organizations revealed that few young people experiencing mental disorders seek help (see chart to the right)
Social stigmas surrounding mental disorders and economical constraints are leading reasons for not finding professional help. Many view mental health as something to be worked out alone, and seeking help is being weak. These negative views surrounding this larger issue severely harm those who experience it.
A strong support system can help mitigate the fears around receiving help. Support systems can offer informal aid and may be consist of family members or friends.
A strong support system can make or break the healing process. An observer who has a firm understanding of a sufferer as a person can offer different insight compared to one with a strictly clinical worldview.
“My parents have been incredibly supportive of me and helping me handle [my depression]. There is some stuff where they missed out and didn't notice. But sometimes, if you look at yourself, you don't want to notice until it's right in front of you. People would rather just kind of ignore the hard truths which is understandable because that stuff can be really hard to deal with.”
George Doe, a Sora student
*name has been changed to protect anonymity
George Doe has learned about the importance of support.
“At least in my experience, [your friends/family] not understanding [depression] could actually make it substantially worse for the person. And that's not okay. So understanding that depression isn't like a phase, it's something you have to deal with for your whole life, and you have to work through it, is important,” says Doe.
Georgia Peters*, another Sora School student, said their lack of a support system really impacted them.
“I don’t think my friends really understood… and that kind of made everything worse and then there’s like another thing piling up on everything. I really wish they just knew the thoughts are not just gonna stop, it's not like one day, I snap my fingers and everything will stop. I want understanding that it doesn’t just go away,” says Peters.
Although having an outside observer can be beneficial, whether it be from a psychological expert or a close friend, a firm understanding of one’s self can also be critical, as noted by Tooson.
“The main thing about mental health is self-awareness. There are people who are completely self-aware that they're dealing with something as opposed to people who do not know or are not self-aware of things that affect them physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So you've already got two buckets of people: the ones who are self-aware and those who are not self-aware,” states Tooson.
The best way to help someone experiencing a mental disorder is debated but there are strategies backed by evidence.
Help them seek professional help so they can grow their self-awareness
Provide and cultivate support from friends and family
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression: