Robin Williams will be remembered as the man who had the world rolling on the floor laughing. The 63 year old actor, as we learned two weeks ago, was a victim to the gray storm of depression and died because of it.
Williams’ tragedy brought depression into the spotlight, an affliction too many teens are familiar with, including teens here at SAS.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that 11 percent of adolescents by age 18 have depression disorders. In 2012, they calculated 2.2 million adolescents between the age of 12 – 17 in America alone.
SAS psychologist Dr. Jeffery Devens said that depression-type moods are quite common among adolescents, but that there is a difference between sadness or feeling down and true clinical depression. Depression, according to the US National Library of Medicine, is the feeling of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration with everyday life for a long period of time.
”There are two kinds of depression when we think about teenagers. One is dysthymia, which is a long-term protracted depression, and the other’s more acute, which is the result of some sort of event triggering it. It’s not just a weekend; it’s not just a week,” Devens said.
According to Devens, the common symptoms are lacking interest in previous activities because they are no longer enjoyable, changes in sleep or eating, changes with academic or athletic performance, or loss of interest in social circles.
A local Singaporean psychologist explained that emotions can be put on a scale of “really happy, okay, or not okay at all.” Most people would be above “okay.” Very rarely do we reach “really happy,” but those suffering from depression will scoot closer to “not okay at all.”
“People sometimes are chameleons,” Devens said. “They tend to paint the picture of what they want people to see, but in their hearts, sometimes in their heads, it’s not based on who they are.”
Those with depression will find a range of different ways to cope with how they’re feeling. Some will simply talk to people they feel will listen, while others will invest in full counseling with psychologists.
However, we can all do something to help our friends or family who may be suffering from depression. “If we don’t take time to get to know people, build relationships with people, and traffic in one another’s lives in caring loving ways,” Devens said, “we may miss out on opportunities to help and support each other.”
To further understand what it’s like being a teen going through depression, visit the “Live Through This” Project. This project lets those who attempted-suicide tell their story and encourage others to stay strong.