Young people and depression

teenager with sad face mask

The school holidays can be a testing time for families – parents trying to find new ways to keep children and teens occupied; while young people themselves may be missing school friends, or trying to assert their own independence, or simply bored no matter what activities are suggested. But what if problems are a symptom of something more concerning?

Many people wonder if children and teens can really suffer depression. In the case of teens, adults may attribute symptoms of depression to normal teen emotional swings. But experts and paediatricians point out that children and teens really can get depressed, and may be afflicted with the true illness of depression.

What Causes Young People to Succumb to Depression?

As in adults, depression may have multiple causes or one cause that varies among individuals. There are some factors that are unique to certain stages of life, however.

Children

Children, like adults, may become depressed because of genetics. They may have inherited a tendency toward depression, and perhaps there was a trigger that caused it to surface. Children may become depressed due to divorce, as they are uniquely affected by their immediate family’s dynamic.

Bullying at school is also something children may have to face that is not a factor for adults – not to mention cyber bullying, which can have devastating consequences. Low self-esteem can also develop through comparing themselves to peers on social media.

A child with a tendency toward perfectionism may be more prone to depression as well. Children with this tendency may ‘beat themselves up’ unnecessarily over failures or perceived failures.

Teens

This age group is considered particularly prone to depression. This may be due in part to the hormonal upheavals that occur during the teen years. But be careful – it’s easy for adults to take this information and think ‘it’s just hormones’ and therefore think the depression does not need to be addressed. Experts agree that depression, regardless of its cause, is something that should be addressed and treated.

Teens may also be dealing with the bullying/self-esteem issues mentioned above, or even just ‘harmless’ teasing. They may be experiencing their first crush; or rejection from the opposite sex, or indeed same sex – realising one’s sexuality and then facing the prospect of coming out is an additional and potentially enormous minefield for those affected. Other causes may be purely physiological; maybe nothing is particularly wrong in the teen’s life, but his or her brain just seems to run in a depressed mode.

What Are the Signs?

Here are some warning signs of depression in young people.

Children

Parents should be vigilant for any talk about suicide or morbid fascination with death. Other sources point out that television and films should be carefully monitored, both for potentially depressing subject matter and for the psychological effects of TV viewing in general (studies show that children who watch six or more hours of TV a day are more prone to depression).

– Sleep disturbances or changes in sleep habits
– Sudden increase or decrease in appetite
– Angry outbursts and/or irritability
– Lack of interest in social activities or friends
– ‘Touchy’ about perceived rejection

Teens

Some of the signs of depression in teens are like those in children; some are different. As with children, parents of teens should be keenly aware of any indications of suicidal thoughts. Music, films, and television are also sources of potentially depressing images and subject matter – although it’s important to emphasise that an attraction to these may be a symptom rather than a cause. Also, many teens attracted to ‘alternative’ subcultures can find solace and support there; and non-mainstream interests can be a positive indication of free thinking and independence.

Other signs may include:

– Weight loss or gain
– Over-exercise and/or obsessive dieting
– Binge eating
– Angry outbursts/yelling at parents
– Withdrawal from social activities and family

If your child is showing some of these signs over a period of time, you may wish to consider seeing whether they would be open to seeing a therapist who could help them. Hypnotherapy can be an extremely effective way of working with young people on a number of levels – a significant one being that they don’t have to talk about their issues if they don’t want to, or don’t feel able to. Like adults, they appreciate the deep calming relaxation involved in hypnotherapy, which can help them gain perspective on and control over their issues, and work towards clarity and understanding.

I am a qualified hypnotherapist, experienced with working with depression (see my ‘success stories’) who has successfully completed the Uncommon Knowledge course ‘How To Lift Depression Fast’. I am also experienced with working with young people, and offer a free 15 minute phone consultation (07947 475721). I am based in London, UK but can work remotely wherever in the world you may be; so please do get in touch if you or your child are affected by depression – I can help.

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The importance of self-care

woman in yoga pose on rock above lake

This post is prompted by some sad news – the death of a musician I was a big fan of over the years. (Indeed I foisted a CD of my own music onto him upon a brief encounter in Stoke Newington many moons ago.) Most shockingly he was around my age. I touched upon how musicians can be affected by the stress of their profession in my last post so won’t repeat any of that here – especially given that it may not be relevant in his case – but as the issue of self-care has been cropping up repeatedly in recent months, I wanted to say a few words on it.

In fact, I did a talk at a lovely local networking group a couple of weeks ago, and the conversation turned to exactly this. The group of women there had all set up small businesses – in many cases, remarkably juggling such commitments around bringing up small children – and some commented that the brief guided visualisation I conducted as part of the session was the first time they had relaxed in months! Not unusually, some of them felt guilty when they took time out for themselves, and I suggested that if they didn’t do this, how could they best serve their clients?

Unfortunately we live in a culture where hard work is fetishised, with predictable consequences – burn-out is endemic, people spend less time with their loved ones, and everyone suffers. You are not being selfish if you take time out each day to properly nurture yourself – and by that I mean things like taking time to cook a nutritious meal instead of grabbing a take-away, spending quality time with people (preferably with phones off!), talking a walk in nature, meditation (there are plenty of guided visualisations on Youtube if you’re not sure where to start)…these are just some examples, but basically anything that encourages you to slow down, breathe, and properly interact with the world around you. Do you ever notice how much calmer you feel around someone who is calm themselves? Well, you can be that person!

And if you need a little support and encouragement along the way, there are many therapists – including myself of course – who are ready to help you. Many therapy centres have open days if you’re not sure where to begin, possibly enabling you to try a few different things before deciding what works best for you. Many therapists (again including myself) offer free consultations, so you can ask questions and decide whether they are the right person for you. Some people are put off by the potential cost, but when an hour with someone who can help you costs about the same as a night down the pub, it may be better to consider this an investment rather than an expense. A good therapist can not only help you work through issues which may be holding you back, but will teach you skills and strategies you can take away and use to better the rest of your life – and who can put a price on that?

I’ll end by sharing my favourite form of self-care – sitting in my lovely garden with headphones on, listening to music I love. And so it seems appropriate to close this post with a track by the wonderful musician who prompted me to post it. RIP Ben.

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All about mental health

woman alone on bus with distorted reflections in windows

I’ve been focusing strongly on mental health so far this year – including starting a NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Awareness of Mental Health Problems – and just wanted to update on a couple of events I’ve recently attended. Firstly, it is such a positive sign that such discussions are even taking place, and people are feeling increasingly emboldened to be open about their struggles. I’m no fan of celebrity culture, but upon seeing Mariah Carey reveal her struggle with bipolar disorder yesterday I applauded her bravery. This – and similar revelations by those in the public eye – will bring courage to many who may have struggled with the same symptoms but not known what to do about them…or possibly even that there was a name for them. For far too long sufferers have been ridiculed in the media due to ignorance, and such attitudes have prevailed. This has resulted all too often in sufferers receiving advice along the lines of ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘move on’ – hardly helpful to those already struggling to manage their symptoms, which are often down to factors outside their control in the first place.

So it’s especially encouraging to see the business world starting to grasp the nettle, given that I’m increasingly seeing executives seeking treatment as they start to buckle under the strain of a culture where being a workaholic is seen as some kind of positive attribute. In reality, it inevitably puts strain on their relationships with their families and other loved ones – especially if they resort to coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol, or gambling. So it was with interest that I ventured to the recent Minds@Work event – in their own words, ‘a community of like-minded professionals coming together to break the stigma of depression and anxiety in the working world.’ Handily they have put all the talks up on their website, including stories from two gentlemen whose mental health had impacted upon their careers – and how they had overcome this adversity. There was also an excellent demonstration of best practice from insurance firm Legal & General who not only employ 60 Mental Health First Aiders, but have a great campaign underway called ‘Not A Red Card Offence’, engaging famous sportspeople to help shift the stigma (the power of celebrity again). Impressive!

The next event was close to my heart: a Mental Health Workshop run by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA). As a professional musician myself, I have seen firsthand the impacts of a lifestyle which is often romanticised by the media. Long days composing, rehearsing, or touring – followed by longer nights performing – take their toll upon health and relationships; not to mention the near impossibility of earning any reasonable income from one’s talents (did you know a band/artist earns only 0.001p from each play on Spotify, for example?) So this event was intended to provide a taster of skills based on neuroscience and cognitive behavioural psychology to empower musicians as they progress against such unfavourable odds, courtesy of Music for Mental Wealth. It was good to see some of the techniques I use with my own clients gaining wider traction; and I’m optimistic that increasingly these sorts of conversations are becoming not exactly easy to have, but at least less difficult.

So if you or anyone you are close to is feeling the strain of a mental health issue, please know you are not alone. Practical help is available from a number of local sources and support groups, and your GP should be able to advise in the first instance. Although medication works for some people, it shouldn’t really be seen as a long-term solution – a qualified therapist can help you get to the root of the issue and teach you coping mechanisms as appropriate. In some instances this may entail making some lifestyle changes, but we’ve all heard the old adage – no-one on their deathbed wishes they’d spent more time at work.

If you’d like to see whether hypnotherapy or coaching is right for you in response to these (or any other) issues, I offer a free no-obligation 15 minute phone consultation – see my main page for details. And if you are fortunate enough to work for an employer who runs well-being events, I also undertake corporate sessions – feel free to put me in touch with your HR department. In the meantime, thanks for reading; and let’s all do our best to support anyone we know – or suspect – may be struggling with their mental health.

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