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Dealing With Teen Depression

By: Ruth Fiske

Depression is something a lot of people struggle with, especially teens. In the past, people used to judge those who had depression. I believe now as a society that we are more aware and caring towards teen depression. It is important to inform people about teen depression and helping all people. 

How common is teen depression? Why does it exist? What even is teen depression? How can we act to help teens with depression? These are probably some questions that come up when this subject is talked about. I had the privilege to interview some of my peers and a fellow classmate about teen depression. The first person I interviewed was my school counselor, Ms. Shaw. Ms. Shaw has worked at Waynesboro High School for eight years now. Before that, she was a school counselor at a different division and worked in child protective services. Ms. Shaw is mental health trained because that is part of the training to be a school counselor. I asked Ms. Shaw if she thinks our school is aware of the problem of teen depression. 

“I think they are,” she said. “Between the teachers and administrators and the school counselors, we’re pretty aware.” 

She went on to speak about teen depression. 

“Well, I think it can be a number of things. It could be situational depression. That can be anywhere from a death in the family, a change in circumstances, like divorce, or parents splitting up, high school relationship, so that’s what I would consider situational depression. Where it doesn’t always last for long periods of time but at that moment it feels like, well, the end of the world,” she said.  “That doesn’t mean it is not as important as long term depression, it’s just a different depression.”

We talked about how students that have suffered from depression for years is completely different from situational depression. We discussed how that could possibly be from a chemical imbalance in the brain or something traumatic that happened that depression still continues. We also got to discuss how some time ago if a teen had depression, then people would say that person is just quiet or antisocial. 

Mr. Spees, the photography teacher at Waynesboro High School, had some interesting thoughts about teen depression. This is Mr. Spees’s seventh year at WHS. He has worked a variety of other jobs. He owned a business as a welder, he’s worked in restaurants, he has been a gardener, worked in factories, has been a photographer. I asked him how teen depression affects students.

“It definitely affects kids when they walk in the door,” Spees said. “They probably don’t get near enough school work done. It probably affects the job that teachers do. It also affects when the students don’t participate.”

I also got to ask him what his experience were dealing with teen depression as a teacher. 

“I see more physical signs that mental signs,” he said.  “They recede to themselves, are quieter and don’t want to talk about it.”

Being mental health trained is not a requirement for teachers like it is for school counselors. As a teacher, Mr. Spees said that he is not afraid to stop and talk to students if they seem depressed. He said that he asks students, “Are you ok?” The reason being is because he cares about this issue and wants to help. If he cannot help in a more professional way (because he is not legally trained to deal with mental health), then he said he would recommend someone for a student to talk to.

Olivia Huffman, a student at Waynesboro also had some thoughts about teen depression. This is Olivia’s first year at WHS and she is in eleventh grade. Teen depression to Olivia is portrayed in the media as staying to yourself and sometimes suicide. I asked Olivia if she sees teen depression as a problem at WHS.

“No, not at WHS, but I’ve seen teen depression a lot at my old school Fort Defiance,” she said. 

     Olivia also told me that she does not see it as much as she expected to see it here at WHS. I asked her how we as students can be more aware of teen depression, and how we can help other students.

“We can make people more aware by talking to your counselor if needed,” she said.

She also thinks that we as students can help teens dealing with depression by being there for them. I also asked her how important it is making teen depression aware to her and how important it is helping teens with depression. 

“Well just in general, helping others to me is a great thing,” she said. “But especially with depression or suicide.”

Finally, I asked her how she thinks the teachers and staff at WHS acknowledge and help students with depression. 

“Teachers and staff at WHS are always there if you need someone to talk to,” Olivia said. “Especially in very difficult situations like teen depression or anything like that.”

As teens, our brains are still developing and it is hard to focus on schoolwork or anything for that matter when you are dealing with depression.  It is ok to not be ok. It is important to reach out to each other. You never know what is truly going on with someone and everyone deserves to have someone there for them. Talk to your friends, family, school counselor. You are never alone!

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