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WHAT TO DO WHEN A FRIEND IS DEPRESSED

A Guide for Teenagers

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration NIH Publication No. 94-3824


As a teenager, you know that these school years can be complicated and demanding. Deep down, you are not quite sure of who you are, what you want to be, or whether the choices you make from day to day are the best decisions.

Sometimes the many changes and pressures you are facing threaten to overwhelm you. So it isn't surprising that from time to time you or one of your friends feels "down" or discouraged.

But what about those times when a friend's activity and outlook on life stay "down" for weeks and begin to affect your relationship? If you know someone like this, your friend might be suffering from depression. As a friend, you can help.


1. FIND OUT MORE ABOUT DEPRESSION.

Q. What is depression?

A. Depression is more than the blues or the blahs; it is more than the normal, everyday ups and downs. When that "down" mood, along with other symptoms, lasts for more than a couple of weeks, the condition may be clinical depression. Clinical depression is a serious health problem that affects the total person. In addition to feelings, it can change behavior, physical health and appearance, academic performance, and the ability to handle everyday decisions and pressures.

Q. What causes clinical depression?

A. We do not yet know all the causes of depression, but there seems to be biological and emotional factors that may increase the likelihood that an individual will develop a depressive disorder. Research over the past decade strongly suggests a genetic link to depressive disorders, depression can run in families. Bad life experiences and certain personality patterns such as difficulty handling stress, low self-esteem, or extreme pessimism about the future can increase the chances of becoming depressed.

Q. How common is it?

A. Clinical depression is a lot more common than most people think. It affects 10 million Americans every year. One-fourth of all women and one-eighth of all men will suffer at least one episode or occurrence of depression during their lifetimes. Depression affects people of all ages but is less common for teenagers than for adults. Approximately 3 to 5 percent of the teen population experiences clinical depression every year. That means among 100 friends, 4 could be clinically depressed.

 

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