By Karime Fajer
Adolescence is a vital period in the biological, psychological, sexual and social development between puberty and adulthood. For the World Health Organization, adolescence is the period between 10 and 19 years old. Adolescence is followed by youth, from 20 to 24 years. Some psychologists believe that adolescence covers up to 21 years of age, and some authors have discussed in recent studies that adolescence lasts up to 25 years of age.
Sooo… In other words, adolescence is not accurate. No one knows for sure. The very definition of the term is as confusing as survival of such age: you like everything, you hate everything, you love people, hate people, your body changes, your friends change, you fall in love, break your heart, you do not know who you are, you know what you want, find your passion, do not find meaning in anything … IT’S TOO MUCH! SO MANY CHANGES!
Being a teenager means suffering powerful emotional and physical changes that lead to adulthood. But to suffer intense mood swings, to feel isolated or continuous discouragement following every change present… that may be a sign that something’s wrong.
DEPRESSION, STEALTH MODE ATTACK
Depression is a common mental disorder, which is characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, disturbed sleep or appetite, tiredness and lack of concentration. It can become chronic or recurrent, and substantially hinder performance at work or school and the ability to cope with everyday life.
International institutions such as the World Health Organization, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Institute of Mental Health or the prestigious Mayo Clinic have symptomatic guides and recommendations to address a condition that is now the third leading cause of suicide amongst teenagers.
This mental illness is becoming increasingly common in young people between 13 and 17 years, with its highest peak at age 16. The most common causes of depression in adolescence are:
- Hormonal changes
- Dissatisfaction with body image
- Low self-esteem
- Bullying or cyberbullying
- Social Problems (peer pressure, difficulties for socializing, peer rejection, love problems…)
- Family problems
- Academic Difficulties
Its importante to mentions that teenage years are a rapidly changing age, combined with the rapid changes in our environment, which triggers strong emotions, very difficult to control, and that are rarely shared by young people who believe they have to solve their problems without any assistance.
Characters like Clark Kent and Peter Parker were harassed for being different from other boys. Most of the X-Men suffered the rejection of their environment, including their family… All of them decided at some point to hide their true self, and tried to bear the burden on their own. Bruce Wayne loses his parents in a terrible way, like Barry Allen loses his mother. You think they did not have a depressive period? And yet, they teach us different ways to identify and address these unpleasant feelings.
No matter if you’re an adult or a teenager, if you suffer from depression or if you know someone who does. No matter what type of affective disorder or depressive episode it is, or if you are just going through a hard time. It is important to identify signs and symptoms that put us at risk. If more than 5 symptoms are present for over two weeks, affecting the mood or the ability to function or a person, it is important to seek or offer assistance:
- Changes in appetite or weight (loss or gain).
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Difficulty making decisions.
- Episodes of memory loss.
- Feelings of agitation, restlessness and irritability.
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, sadness or self-loathing.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once fun.
- Thinking or talking about suicide or death.
- Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping or daytime sleepiness.
HELP ON THE WAY
If you managed to spot someone with the symptoms above, it is good to know the kind of support you can offer:
- Family and friends: Alfred was a vital character to a young and orphan Bruce Wayne. Having the support of someone, even just to talk and feel listened to, makes all the difference in the world. Share your feelings with someone else will your mind and give you a different perspective about the problem. It is difficult, but is the first step.
- Psychotherapy: A mental health professional is the best person to accompany you through this process. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the treatment of choice according to the World Health Organization, and has shown effective in adolescents. Look for the appropriate therapy for you or for someone in need.
- Medical Treatment: Depression is an illness, and sometimes depressive episodes are part of other diseases. Monitoring by a physician is essential to accompany psychotherapy, antidepressant medication sometimes is good support too. Fear not, medications are safe as long as there’s a doctor taking care of your treatment.
- Exercise and behavioral activation: It’s not surprising that both Barry Allen as Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker decided to go into improving their abilities to deal with loss … Exercise and return to activities previously performed by the depressed person is one of the best ways to fight depression or nostalgic episodes. It is a natural antidepressant, and seeking new experiences will lead a person to discover different environments to help them improve.
- NEVER ignore suicidal thoughts or attempts, or underestimate the possibility. Get help immediately.
THE NUMBER OF ALTERNATIVES IS TOO DAMN HIGH!
Social networking is an icon for this generation. The millennials, and now the Z generation have grown surrounded by the influence of electronic media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and a favorite of the teens, 9gag. It is in this last mentioned social network where young people from around the world are asking for help. Not only for being teenagers, but because platforms like 9gag, and now 9chat, provide a safe and friendly community infrastructure of users.
The use of memes to convey ideas and comments, have helped many young people to seek help even in an anonymous context and the community responds nicely, opening discussion forums, making comments in order to help or making people laugh. These are only details, but those can change a person’s perceptive passing through a bad time.
We invite you to be part of a positive movement in support of teens who are going through a rough time, if you are joining social networks and detect a person who may require assistance, a friendly comment or recommendation can make a significant difference.
There’s no need to be a psychologist to help a depressed person, simply listening or being a good company is sufficient. Don’t fear about giving advice if you suspect someone is not well: exaggeration is preferable to overlook someone who doesn’t know how to ask for help.
And if you’re going through a difficult situation, let us tell you something: IT DOES GET BETTER. Asking for help is very difficult, but once you manage to do so, you’ll find the next steps easier into a better scenario.
You don’t have to be alone. Come close to those around you.
No superheroe became one on it’s own…
We are here for you.