Mental health is discussed more widely today than it ever has been in the past, and it’s easy to believe that knowledge like teen depression awareness is at an all time high.
But that’s not the case.
Many people are still unaware of what depression really looks like, and therefore, people who suffer from it are still often stigmatized and blamed for symptoms of their condition that are really out of their control.
With depression on the rise among teens and young adults, making teens aware of what depression is and what it looks like can reduce the stigma for many. And teens will take that knowledge with them as they age, ensuring that future generations also experience less stigma.
Take a look at some of the ways that you can help raise teen depression awareness.
Talk About It
Because of stigma, many people choose to keep their own experiences with mental illness to themselves.
And because people aren’t hearing about first-hand experiences with mental illness, they continue to misunderstand what they really look like. This causes the stigma regarding teen depression awareness to persist.
But one way to break that cycle is by talking about your own experiences with depression. If you’ve experienced depression yourself, and you have teenagers or have regular contact with teenagers, you can help by talking to them about your experiences:
- Describe what it feels like to have depression, and also what it looks like.
- Explain what it’s like to ask for help dealing with your depression, and what barriers you may have faced in receiving help.
- Talk about what kind of treatment you received, how well it worked, whether you had to try more than one treatment before you started to feel relief.
In short, be as detailed as you possibly can. There are many ways to learn about depression, but one of the most effective ways to learn is hearing a first-hand account from a trusted person.
Your personal story will mean more to your teenager than anything they could read in a textbook.
Choose Your Words Carefully
The language that you use can either contribute to the stigma that people feel when they suffer from depression or break that stigma.
It’s important to choose your words carefully to avoid adding to the stigma that people with depression and other mental health conditions experience.
Your teens pay attention to what you say and how you say it – even when you don’t think that they’re paying attention – so it’s important to set an example by monitoring your own language, as well as by correcting your teens when they use language that’s harmful to people who have depression.
For example, it’s important to take depression seriously – it doesn’t help a depressed person to say that they should just “get over it” or “stop being lazy”. Don’t refer to people with mental illnesses as “crazy” or “insane”.
Avoid conflating mental illnesses with ordinary experiences – liking to be organized isn’t the same as having OCD, for example.
Avoid minimizing someone else’s experiences. Something that may not seem consequential to you can have a very serious impact on someone else. Never accuse someone of making up or exaggerating a mental illness.
You may not understand their experience, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a valid experience.
Correct the Record When Possible
People often feel that they don’t have much influence over wider societal conversations, but the truth is that today, individuals have more influence than ever before.
Thanks to social media, anyone can reach out to a network, respond to a celebrity, or interact with a viral post.
That means that when you notice that a television show or news media program depicts depression in a stigmatizing way or uses irresponsible language that stigmatizes depressed people, or when a celebrity makes a comment you don’t agree with, you can speak up quickly – and immediately – in the form of something like a Facebook post or a tweet.
Of course, you can also still correct the record in more traditional ways. For example, you can write to a network if you feel that they’re portraying mental illness irresponsibly.
It’s true that commenting on social media may not necessarily reach the intended recipient of your message – celebrities, networks, and public personalities tend to have large followings and they may not see every comment or response – but speaking up publicly can still influence the people who do see your posts, comments, and responses.
Your words can still have an impact even if you don’t go viral. And teenagers and young people are some of the biggest social media users, so they’re the ones most likely to be influenced.
Look for Opportunities to Educate
Look for ways that you can educate not just your teenager, but others in your community as well. And try to involve your teen as much as possible:
- Can you volunteer to talk about depression at your teenager’s school?
- Help organize a mental health fair in your community?
- Volunteer with a mental health organization and encourage your teens to get involved too?
You’ll be educating your own teen not only about mental health and depression but also about the different ways that they can use their knowledge to educate and help others as well. This helps improve your teen’s sensitivity and knowledge of mental health conditions and helps improve conditions for people with depression in your community and in general.
Educating teenagers about depression is important. Not only because you want them to be sensitive to others who may be experiencing depression, but also because they may experience depression themselves, either in their teen years or as adults.
Teens who are educated and aware of depression and other mental health issues are less likely to be afraid of any stigma and more likely to seek mental health help when they need it.
Taking the time to raise awareness among teenagers in your orbit could make a big difference to your own teen’s health and well being at some point in their lives.