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Depression: How to Fight and Win
Excerpted from Teen Voices

by Cheryl Alkon

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Everyone feels a little down sometimes. Who wouldn't? Life is filled with challenges and complications. Anything from getting a bad grade to breaking up with a boyfriend can make you feel sad. Even bad weather can affect people's moods. But what about when you, or a friend, always feels like nothing is worth the effort, even though everything seems to be going okay?

When this feeling lasts for awhile and gets in the way of your life, or comes in repeated cycles, you could be suffering from clinical depression. Someone who is clinically depressed cannot just 'snap out of it,' and often, they can't explain just why they feel depressed.

What are the signs of depression?

Signs of depression include feeling hopeless or helpless about life. These feelings can translate into feeling less interested in your hobbies, sports, clubs or other activities that you used to be involved in. Someone who is depressed may be sleeping or eating a lot more, or less, than she used to before she felt depressed. Other indications of depression include a big drop in grades, hanging out with a different group of friend or dropping friends altogether. It's important to distinguish clinical depression from other emotions such as grief. If you have experienced a loss, such as the death of someone close, or you've just broken up with your boyfriend, it's normal to feel down for a period of time. A period of grief may last from several weeks to even a year. It's important to realize the difference-- grief is feeling sad about your loss, a natural reaction. But sometimes people don't work through their loss and it can turn into depression.

Sometimes someone may feel so depressed that they plan to end everything and kill themselves. According to Melisa Poulos, Assistant Director of the Samaritans and the Coordinator of the Samaritan program, a nationwide support group for teenagers, teenage girls are more likely than boys to attempt suicide, although boys are more likely to die from their suicide attempts. Girls may be more likely to seek help for their problems, or talk and write about their feelings to try to help themselves feel better.

How can I get help?

It is important to get help right away if you feel depressed or suicidal, or if you think a friend is depressed and/or considering suicide. To get help, talk to someone you can trust, such as a parent, a teacher, a counselor at school or a friend who will listen to you, take you seriously and get you help. If you think a friend has a problem, talk to them openly. Encourage your friend to seek help. "Ideally, an adult who is familiar with this sort of situation is the best person" to seek help from, says Melisa Poulos.

If you don't feel you can talk with anyone you know about feeling depressed or suicidal, there are many agencies and organizations you can turn to. These places can provide a listener who will let you talk about your problems without judging you and will give referrals and options on where you can get help. A few numbers are listed below; all are 24-hour crisis hot lines. You can also check your local telephone book (usually the yellow pages) under Social and Human Services, Suicide Prevention Services, Counseling, and Youth Services. It is very important that you keep calling until you can get help. Sometimes you can't pull yourself out of your depression on your own. "To treat clinical depression, medication, psychotherapy, and support all go hand-in-hand," says Evie Barkin, Vice President of the Manic Depressive and Depressive Association of Boston.

You won't be turned away if money is a problem, either. "There are lots of services available that do not charge or will negotiate their fees," says Genny Price, Clinical Director of Bridge Over Troubled Waters in Boston. "A professional can't say, 'no money, no service.' There's an ethical obligation to help." If you get a busy signal or if no one answers the phone when you call, DO NOT GIVE UP. Call another organization right away.

Feeling depressed or suicidal are feelings that can changed. Help is available. Don't give up hope in your life or yourself.

For help combatting depression, you can call any of these 24-hour hotlines:

Assessment Center, 1-800-234-0038
Alpine Health Care Teen Help Line, 1-800-827-7511
Teenline, 1-800-522-8336
National Runaway Switchboard, 1-800-621-4000

This article originally appeared in TEEN VOICES

Cheryl Alkon is a freelance writer living in New York City. Originally from Boston, she was an Assistant Editor at Teen Voices magazine, where this piece was originally published. She has written about women's issues and other topics for over twenty print and online publications, including the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Boston Business Journal, and Glamour. She will earn her masters degree in journalism from Columbia University in May, 1996. Got any comments, commendations or complaints for Cheryl? Send her some E-MAIL at [email protected]



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