There are many teens who experience depression and who say nothing about it. Sometimes these teens simply want to keep it to themselves to avoid the stigma of having a mental illness and remain in good standing with their friends. At other times, teens who keep their illness to themselves end up doing something harmful or risky.
In fact, the stigma of mental illness, particularly depression, often keeps teens and adults from getting help. However, breaking the ice and being authentic with your friends about what you’re going through can be an incredibly freeing experience. Certainly, it would be hard to start to talk about, especially if you fear a loss of friendship as a result.
Here are some suggestions for being open about your depression so that you don’t have to hide anything from the world:
- Start off with a friend who is easy to talk to. If you want to be open about your mental illness, then it might be best to start off with someone who will accept you no matter what’s going on. Having your first conversation go well can support your confidence when you talk to other friends.
- Gain the support of your parents when talking to friends. If your parents know that you’re going to be open about your depression, they may be able to help you. You might be able to share with them who you’ve spoken to and what their reactions to. Your parents might be able to offer helpful tips on how to phrase your sentences or how you start out each conversation.
- Watch a movie about depression and use that as an icebreaker with a friend. There are many movies out there that discuss mental illness among adolescents. You might suggest the following movies as a means for opening up the conversation:
The Road Back – This is a short film made by Acadia Hospital. It highlights teen depression and anxiety. This movie, which was written and directed by high school seniors, won Best Student Film at the Iowa Independent Film Festival.
The Truth About Depression – This movie reveals how debilitating depression can be for both teens and adults. The movie details the challenges of this mental illness as well as ways to find support.
Darkness Visible First Light – This is a short video that addresses the key issues of stigma and stereotyping that many teens experience when they are diagnosed with a particular mental illness.
- Wear a wristband. Students at the University of South Florida run a volunteer based organization intended to begin a new and healthier discussion of depression. To do that they are giving away free glow-in-the-dark wristbands with the words “Come Out of the Dark”. If you’re interested in getting your own wristband, you can do that here. The organization is also trying to break down the abstractions that come with depression statistics. Instead of indicating one out of five teens experience depression, they show actual faces of those who have been touched by this psychological illness. On the organization’s Facebook page, visitors can see pictures of those who are wearing the wristband either for themselves or for those they love. Providing images of real people whose lives have been affected by depression brings it alive and more meaningful.
- Make it a cause you’re fighting for. Many teens appreciate passion and having a strong interest in something. If you’re fighting for removing the stigma of depression, it’s likely more teens will listen to you.
If you need additional information before you talk to your friends, many websites provide a wealth of information about mental illness, symptoms, diagnoses, challenges, and impairment on functioning, as well as support for daily management of depression. If you’re willing to talk to your friends, do it with pride and a feeling of accomplishment – that what you’re doing is in fact helping the world – because it is.