#DAW2016: “A depressed person can be happy and smile”

Photo: a woman showing signs of depression, as a report suggests that rising numbers of young people are suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety and stress./Picture by: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire/Press Association Images.
Photo: a woman showing signs of depression, as a report suggests that rising numbers of young people are suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety and stress./Picture by: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire/Press Association Images.

This week is Depression Awareness Week. From April 18 to April 24, people around the UK try to combat the stigma that surrounds this particular mental health problem. I spoke to one 18-year-old student from Durham who is currently a volunteer in Sunderland. 

Depression runs in this student’s family as both of her parents have suffered from it.

“I was bullied mildly in primary and secondary school. There was no physical harm just mental and emotional – name calling and seclusion,” she said.

The 18-year-old started to feel “really down and paranoid constantly”. She thought that no one wanted her around.

She recalls: “I remember slipping over on the ice one day. I broke down and ran home and refused to go to school, because I thought everyone would laugh at me and make fun of me.”

Her mother realised something was wrong and the then 15-year-old started counselling.

“I was diagnosed [with depression] at the age of 15.”

Moving into this year, a breakdown of a relationship made her relapse.

“[It was] due to that fact I was depressed and pushing him away without his knowledge.

“I relapsed and felt so utterly down.”

Last month the student from Durham, who does not want to be named, was put on anti-depressants and now has a counsellor at college.

The 18-year-old said: “I’d say it’s affecting my learning at the moment as I’m suffering from lack of motivation; just getting out of bed is a major achievement.

“It has lost me friends as they don’t understand why I am the way I am sometimes.

“I’m emotional, tired, reserved and moody, but it has benefitted me as I would never have joined the place I now volunteer for or taken the risks and opportunities I have without it there.”

Now the student feels as though she can combat her depression through her voluntary work.

She said: “I felt as if I had something to prove like I am better than my illness so I can do this weird thing outside of my comfort zone.”

The 18-year-old feels as though people would approach her differently if she told them about her depression.

“If I said I was depressed people would approach me different.

“They maybe wouldn’t know what or how to say things…” she said.

She’s also experienced first hand the stigma that surrounds depression.

“I have been sat with friends and they have informed me in the past of other people being depressed and they have said they don’t look it.

“They said that these people we’re always smiling and laughing and thought they were lying.

“In reality a depressed person can be happy and smile.

“Others use that as a mask to hide their suffering,” she added.

The 18-year-old wants to tell people what depression is like.

She said: “I would say that it is the cruelest illness, for your own mind to make you hate yourself.

“It’s lonely and isolating and physically and obviously emotionally draining.”

You can find out more about Depression Awareness Week here.

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