Ailsa Cameron: When teenagers lose touch with reality

Share
Related Topics

It may come as a surprise that teenage depression is relatively common. At my school I know of at least six or seven people who have suffered some form of mental disarray. This doesn't mean that they've received a diagnosis, or had counselling, and it certainly doesn't mean they've tried to end their own lives, as has occurred so tragically among a group of young people in south Wales in an apparent pact forged over the internet. But it's still a torment, and depression is regularly cast aside as the signs of a "moody" teenager, and rarely recognised as an actual illness.

There's a great ignorance in our society about "depression". In school and among young people the word "depressed" is frequently applied in a slangy light-hearted way to describe fleeting feelings of disappointment – eg "I'm so depressed, I'm grounded for a week". The actual meaning and effect of real depression is rarely considered, let alone discussed.

The teen years are horrendously trying times. Rapidly fluctuating hormone levels, overwhelming exam pressure, life-altering decisions, a desire to fulfil the expectations of parents and teachers; all of these pressures intensify, accumulating in new anxiety and demands; swelling until everything seems useless and impossible.

It would be an exaggeration to claim that all teenagers are severely affected by the stress of being a young person. It's true that some manage to crawl out of puberty unscathed, but some are left behind. Then there are those who have to be dragged out, but with little awareness of the illness they have suffered. Usually these people have to deal with depression alone; trying to understand their emotions, often rationalising them with undesirable personality traits: they must be weak-willed, spineless or just plain boring. Some recover, some are forever stuck in the inescapable rut of adolescence, never to be discovered.

Parents, hindered by the typically teenage reluctance of their child to talk about their emotions, seldom have a useful understanding of mental illness. It is in these cases that depression is either not acknowledged or dismissed as normal teenage behaviour. This is where the illness becomes high-risk and the young person is suddenly a novice player in a perilous game.

Those teenagers who are willing to talk – usually girls – may turn to friends. While this can sometimes help, often it can thwart progress. Who's interested in an illness that just makes someone dreary and uninspiring? Which leads to a second question: when you're depressed, and your friends only ever comment on how you're "not a laugh" anymore, where on earth do you turn?

All across social networking sites people openly claim to be "seriously depressed" or "painfully insecure". Poems verbalising suicidal thoughts litter MySpace, and dark colours dominate teenager's pages. Depression's social quarantine has helped it become a darkly sinister trend. Worse still, it's a trend that has provoked a backlash against depression in youth culture.

Most of my friends are extremely liberal people, yet comments such as, "I really think miserable people are so self-centred" are common. Moreover, we have no idea how to distinguish between those who have a serious mental condition and those who are "attention-seekers". Cries for help published on the internet are ignored, and more often than not it's too late to help those who need it most.

The power of these social networking websites is unbelievable. You can see so much in an hour on Bebo or MySpace, and learn a frightening amount about people. It is a place that many teenagers who feel lifeless try to feel part of something. Handy internet tools let you discover people who have the same interests as you, and form special social groups. On Bebo there are countless "groups" or "bands" which members can join and where they apparently feel wanted.

It's so instant and accessible, but it's easy to forget that these are virtual sites. You do not actually belong to anything; you are merely one of millions of internet users. It's a distorted reality that's easy to get sucked into; a few tapped keys and decisions are made. Immediately. There's no time to even think.

There's no denying the internet's blinding danger. It can grab hold of you when you're in a dark place and fling you in deeper. But it's not the sole perpetrator of suicide. What we really need is an understanding as a society, an education and an acceptance of depression and its effects. Let's work together on this one and show some humanity. No more lost souls please.

The writer is a Year 11 pupil at a state secondary school in Wiltshire

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Application Developer / Software Developer

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software development compa...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Loren Hughes: Senior Finance Analyst

£65,000 - £75,000: Loren Hughes: Are you a post qualified accountant? Do you h...

Loren Hughes: Commercial Finance Analyst

£55,000 - £60,000: Loren Hughes: Are you a newly qualified accountant from a B...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Jihadi John went to my university – so what?

James Tennent
 

Japan's torture of my father was horrific — so why are they considering watering down the apology for their wartime past?

Liz Bestic
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower