If you look at these photos posted above, they show a smiling young teenage version of myself. The picture above was taken around Christmas of my senior year in 2001. (Yikes! That long ago!) And the lower right picture is one of my favorite pictures of me (it’s also my profile picture, too!) and that was taken the during summer of 2001 (By a professional photographer!) From the outside, I looked like a normal, happy-go-lucky teenager, but on the inside, I was drowning in depression.
Teen years, in general, are some of the most confusing times in your life. When I turned 13 back in 1996 (Yikes. So long ago!), peer pressure was everywhere! The pressures that I faced from peers were to drink, smoke, have sex, get a car for your 16th birthday, join this crowd, do this and we’ll become friends, and etc. The main difference from when I was a teenager and teens nowadays, is SOCIAL MEDIA (We’ll talk more on technology & depression later). All we had was internet and tweeting was not as prevalent now as it’s today.
My very first cellular phone was old school Nokia phone. And I would play with different ringtones and they had very few features to it. Then I got a Motorola Razor and the old school flip phone. All we could do was take photos or call our friends. Facebook wasn’t around until I hit college. Fun fact: My dad always told me that if I wanted a car or a phone, then he told me to get a job! No better way to learn about responsibility than getting your own car with your own money! Thank you, Dad. Lesson learned!
Anyways, I experienced a lot of depression during my teen years. I moved a couple of times to two different schools in different cities. One high school that I attended in Racine, was very diverse. A great mixture of different kids with different cultures & backgrounds. It was very interesting to meet and converse with those kids. The other high school where I graduated from was a smaller school had a huge white population. Culture change and shock!
I was your ordinary teenager. I found a group of friends that I liked being around, sometimes not the right group. I dressed in regular street clothes just like the other kids and tried blending into the crowd. However, I wasn’t the most popular kid in school and that bugged me during my school years. The pressure to fit in can be very stressful. If do this or look this way, then people will like you. Well! News flash, just be you and nothing more! Accept the way you look, be proud of who you are and what you look like. I wasted too much time caring about what people think and tried too hard to get people to like me. In life, you can’t please everyone, just please yourself!
It turns out that I wasn’t the only teenager in the world that suffered from depression. One of my closest friends in high school suffered from anxiety and depression. I remember how the other kids would bully her for that and for other things, too. Being her best friend, I didn’t react well when someone tried to bully her. I would always stand my ground, stand up for her and handled the situation in a verbal non-violent manner. I think that’s why we were best friends. We both had depression and we would confide in each other about what we were going through. It’s rough.
I was shocked when I did some research on the statistics of children with depression especially teen depression. Some kids get diagnosed during childhood (like me at 10) and that’ll stretch into teen years and even up to adulthood. If you do some reading online on http://www.nami.org or http://www.teendepression.org, you’ll be surprised on the stats of kids today that have or are experiencing depression. 27% of youths and 20% of teens experience and suffer from depression. That’s a lot.
Depression is no laughing matter at all! It’s serious and very dangerous. For some children and teens, they turn to eating disorders, self-harm even suicide. Talking to your kids about depression is CRUCIAL. Also noticing a change in your child/teen’s behavior is also crucial. I understand that most parents are very busy and work long hours, but as a parent, you need to get involved. I knew girls in school that developed eating disorders such as bulimia. I knew two girls that attempted and committed suicide. I knew some that were cutters. It’s scary. Communication is a vital ingredient in any relationship, period! When one of my classmates committed suicide (story posted in a previous post!), I remember my dad sitting me down and he told me: “I love you no matter what. If you’re feeling sad and depressed. Tell me. If you get into trouble, I will be upset. But there’s no reason to take your own life. There’s a lot of help out there. You need to communicate to me that you’re not feeling well.” His dad speech went on for a few hours, and I really felt so much better. He knew that I was traumatized by my classmates’ suicide and said that he was always there to talk when I needed him along with my mother.
It’s important to identify the following behaviors in your child/teen:
- Change in behavior and overall mood (If you notice that your child is more irritable or moody even violent. They could be indicators of depression)
- Changes in their eating habits
- Trouble in school such as a significant drop in grades/performance, difficulty making friends
- Withdrawal from society (Stay off those devices!)
- Sleep patterns
- Acting out in a violent manner
Remember the list isn’t all inclusive. Whatever the issues your children are facing such as online bullying (more on that later!), or loss in the family, and etc; take ACTION as a parent. Teens are more likely to commit suicide now more than ever! Make it a priority to become fully involved with your child’s life. Monitor their social media activity, get them off video games, and push your child forward into the right direction. When I decide to have kids in the future, I will make it one of my top priorities because I suffered from childhood and teenage depression. So I know what it’s like and how it feels, too.
Remember, there’s always help available. There are some great doctors out there to educate you on depression and how it affects our society. So, strike up that conversation with your child before it’s too late.