You can get through this – there are things you can do to find a way through.
In life, feeling down or miserable sometimes is normal. But if these feelings become painful, we may experience an aching heart, mind, body and spirit. We could have trouble sleeping or a change in appetite. We might withdraw from families and friends, and most significantly, we can lose hope.
This could be depression, especially if it lasts longer than a couple of weeks.
Depression is very common. It can affect relationships with family and friends and our ability to work or go to school. It can also lead to suicide.
First you need to know that you are not alone. 1 in every 7 Kiwi teens experience depression.
If you’re feeling alone, or too embarrassed or ashamed to be open about it, know that so many other people are in the same boat and struggling through the same stuff.
Aunty Dee says "no one thing causes depression".
Depression usually comes from a combination of things. Firstly, the way you think affects the way you feel. So if your thinking is really negative, your feelings are likely to be negative too. If you feel sad and depressed you are also more likely to think about things in negative ways. This can be a really unhealthy and unhelpful cycle. It can be easy to get stuck in and hard to get out of.
There can be a specific event that triggers depression. This could be a break-up with your GF or BF. It can be losing your job, having to go to court, and other things that are tough to face.
Alongside tough life events, there are some personal factors that can actually make those harder to deal with. For example, depression can run in your family or you can suffer from pain or have another illness.
Finally, there are some lifestyle things – these are things you do normally as part of your life – such as drinking a lot, or having sleeping problems that can add up to being vulnerable to depression. In the table below there are some common examples of ‘life events’, ‘personal factors’ and ‘lifestyle’ that can make a combo of stuff we know are linked to depression:
- loss of a loved one
- relationship breakup
- being bullied
- living in an abusive environment or family violence
- history of trauma or abuse
- ongoing stress – at home, work, or school
- unable to meet obligations – family or community
- following the birth of a baby
- long-term unemployment or job loss
- depression can run in families
- if you worry a lot, have low self-esteem and tend to think negatively
- suffer from chronic pain
- have a serious medical illness
- excessive alcohol use
- drug use
- gambling addiction
- problems sleeping
- neglecting your health – poor diet or lack of exercise
Aunty Dee’s tips
Different kinds of depression need different types of support or treatments. You can also read Le Va’s Depression Factsheet to find out more about the signs of depression. The info is available in English, Samoan, Cook Islands and Tongan languages.
1. Talk to someone
Firstly you need to know that you don’t have to deal with depression on your own. So many people (1 in 7) go through the same struggles.
The most important thing to do is ask for help. There are many things that might block you from asking for help: shame, embarrassment, worthlessness, pride, guilt and lack of hope – feeling like it’s just not worth it. Part of depression often involves feeling these things. But you’ve got to remember that everyone deserves to feel free from depression.
Tell someone you trust how you’re feeling. It could be family, a friend or your church leader.
There are also many health professionals and services available. What’s best for you depends on whether your depression is mild or more serious. Depression becomes serious when it gets in the way of doing all the ordinary and normal things in your life and you really lose hope. Read my tips on talking too.
2. Help yourself as much as you can
For mild symptoms of depression and when you’re feeling low, self-help strategies work really well.
- Move: sometimes physical exercise can be just as good as medication for mild depression. And you don’t have to pay for a gym membership to be active. It could be anything from kapahaka to dancing the night away. Check online for free resources and apps that give great advice on how to keep moving.
- Eat well: healthy food choices can have an amazingly positive impact on how you feel. Check out www.eatmovelive.govt.nz for all the info you need to make this happen for you.
- Sleep well: it can be easy to underrate how important sleep is. 'Sleep hygiene' is all about getting a good night’s sleep all the time! When sleeping is a problem it is worth getting tips to help with it.
- Go easy on the caffeine and alcohol.
- Checkout SPARX, a game designed for young people aged 12 to 19 with mild to moderate depression. It's free, fun and confidential. This computerised self-help program was made by gaming experts and mental health experts. Le Va and Aunty Dee helped with it. To learn more, visit YouTube or www.sparx.org.nz and register to use the program.
- There are lots of self help books and websites like www.thelowdown.co.nz and www.depression.org.nz where you can sign up to The Journal, which can help teach you skills to get through depression. Information is always power.
3. Be safe
If you have had thoughts about taking your own life or harming yourself, please call one of these numbers now. Aunty Dee and her team care about you - you can get through this, so get help early.
- Call 111 and stay on the phone with them while you wait for help to come.
- Call 0508 828 865 (0508 Tautoko), your confidential and free suicide crisis helpline.
- Call your local mental health crisis team.
- Find out more about where to access support on Le Va's website.
4. Get help
If you have other severe symptoms of depression you’ll need to talk to a doctor, psychologist or counsellor who is trained to treat depression. Medication can also make a difference. If you want to talk to someone confidentially or ask questions, try these free numbers. Even if a phone call is not enough to help, it can be a good first step.
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354 – New Zealand's free telephone counselling service.
- Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 – when you're feeling down and would like to talk to a trained counsellor.
- Healthline: 0800 611 116 – if you're feeling unwell, sick or need advice.
- Youthline: 0800 376 633 – free text 234 or email: email@example.com.
- What's Up: 0800 942 8787 – for 5-18 year olds; 1pm to 11pm.
- Kidsline: 0800 54 37 54 (0800 KIDSLINE) – for children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays.
- OUTLine NZ: 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) – provides support for sexuality or gender identity issues.
- Suicide crisis helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 Tautoko) – your confidential and free suicide crisis helpline.