A mood disorder causing a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.

What is Depression?


Normal Feelings vs. Depression

We all feel sad or 'down' from time to time - it's part of being human. For young people, it's normal to have occasional mood swings, feel irritable sometimes, and to be sensitive to rejection and criticism. This can make it harder to tell whether you're experiencing "normal" feelings or whether you are becoming depressed.

Depression is one of the most common health issues for young people in America. Depression ("major depression") is a mental illness characterised by feelings of sadness that lasts longer than usual, affect most parts of your life and stop you enjoying the things that you used to.


You may be experiencing depression if, for more than two weeks, you've felt sad, depressed or irritable most of the time, or you've lost interest or pleasure in your usual activities. Other symptoms may include:

  • Loss of interest in food or eating too much, leading to weight loss or gain
  • Having trouble sleeping (getting to sleep and/or staying asleep), or oversleeping and staying in bed most of the day
  • Feeling tired most of the time, or lacking energy and motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Feeling worthless or guilty a lot of the time
  • Feeling everything has become 'too hard'
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide
  • People with depression might have other mental or physical health problems as well, such as anxiety, or using cigarettes, alcohol or illegal drugs excessively.
Getting Help For Depression

Even though it may seem hard, it is important to talk with someone that you trust about how you feel. You could talk with a parent, teacher, school counsellor, family member or friend. A general practitioner (GP) is another good place to start when seeking help and information. Most people are able to recover from depression with the right help. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can recover.

An important part of professional support is often psychological therapy. Psychological ('talking') therapy focuses on helping you to build skills to deal with the stresses in your life and change negative thinking patterns. Antidepressant medications can also be added if they are needed. Depending on the type of treatment most people start to feel better or notice an improvement after about two to six weeks.

Apart from seeking professional help there are a number of things you can do to maintain good mental health. Regular physical exercise, eating well, practicing relaxation, expressing your feelings, and doing things that you enjoy are just some of the things that can help.

What Can Help?

With adolescent depression treatment, the bad news is the good news: the bad news is lots of teens in the United States suffer from Depression, but the good news is that means there are more treatment options and resources available to help. It also means you’re not alone- many people have gone through similar things, felt at a loss for hope, and then found help that improves things. Some of the options that are most likely to help quickly and thoroughly are:


A variety of forms of talk therapy that can help a person gain clarity to what they’re feeling, insight as to what improves/worsens those feelings, and relief from the overwhelming sense of isolation. Often times, untrue beliefs form alongside Depression, and psychotherapy can help reestablish an “objective” point of view, both of reality and self. And, last but certainly not least, engaging in psychotherapy, especially with a psychotherapist there’s a genuine connection with, can provide relief that the person isn’t facing it alone.


Although medication is never mandatory, it is often a powerful counterpart used in conjunction with talk therapy. Because Depression is most often connected to a chemical imbalance in the brain, medication can help return a person to a “level ground,” from which to address life. Because Depression is such a common Mental Illness among Americans, there are many different options, but most medications address the most central hormones related to moods.

Residential Treatment

Depending on the severity and length of time a person has been experiencing symptoms of teen depression, sometimes some time spent concentrating on the Illness, with other responsibilities and distractions of life temporarily set aside, can be a very positive experience. Because of the intensity of residential treatment, often a person can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and start feeling considerably better, quick. The other powerful factor of Residential Treatment is getting a chance to clearly process the message that you’re not the only one, you don’t have to deal with it alone, and things can get better.


If you have thoughts of suicide or plans to harm yourself, it's really important to seek immediate help. Talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend or teacher and seek help from professionals. You can also call the suicide lifeline 1 (800) 273 - 8255 available 24 hours every day.

Depression - Suicide & Self-Harm

Depression is one of the main risks for suicide and self harm. If someone you know is self harming or talking about suicide try to arrange some support from close, trusted friends or family. Help the person be safe and remove dangerous things like tablets, guns or other weapons and try to encourage them to see a health professional. If in doubt, don't be afraid to call 911.

Disclaimer Continued

Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed. One cause for this is that many individuals with bipolar disorder seek treatment when they are in the most depressive state. When they’re in the manic stage, they don’t realize the problem is presenting itself. Most individuals with bipolar disorder are suffering from symptoms a greater percentage of the time than when they’re manic or hypomanic.

Being misdiagnosed with depression is a serious problem because the treatment for bipolar depression is much different from regular depression. Antidepressants can sometimes make bipolar disorder worse. Therefore, it is the best interest of the individual to see a mood disorder specialist who can help determine what is occuring.

According to Help Guide, these are indicators that your depression is really bipolar disorder:

  • You’ve experienced repeated episodes of major depression
  • You had your first episode of major depression before age 25
  • You have a first-degree relative with bipolar disorder
  • When you’re not depressed, your mood and energy levels are higher than most people’s
  • When you’re depressed, you oversleep and overeat
  • Your episodes of major depression are short (less than 3 months)
  • You’ve lost contact with reality while depressed
  • You’ve had postpartum depression before
  • You’ve developed mania or hypomania while taking an antidepressant
  • Your antidepressant stopped working after several months
  • You’ve tried 3 or more antidepressants without success

Source: Headspace Australia, Paradigm Malibu, The International Bipolar Foundation,