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5 things I learned about coping with depression in my teens


Five things I learned about coping with depression as a teenager

Recovery Note #4

~ Emma Edwards

1. It’s okay to not be okay

It is not a weakness to experience depression, anxiety, and other forms of distress as a teenager. It is quite common! Society tells us that we should look and behave in certain ways, and that we have to fit a certain stereotype in order to simply be accepted. I didn’t think it was okay to be struggling with depression when I was a teenager. I thought it meant I was weak and worthless. But admitting that I was not okay and that I did not know who I was took me on a journey of incredible discovery. I came out the other end of the dark tunnel with strength, purpose, and value for my life. I wouldn’t change a thing.

2. Connection is the key

It is incredibly lonely when experiencing depression – and I almost think it is more lonely when you experience depression as a teenager, during the life-stage in which you are trying to figure out how and where you fit in the world. At a time in your life when you are trying to fit in, you fall into a dark hole that isolates you – giving you no opportunity to find your place in the world. I isolated myself and was anxious to interact with anyone. However, the most useful thing for me was the one thing I did not want to do – it was to spend time with friends, family, and people who understood what I was going through.

“When you are at the bottom of the dark hole, it feels like every movement causes you to fall deeper. It is extremely difficult to see that each step actually takes you closer to the light of day.”

3. Asking for help actually helps!

Looking back, I had friends around me going through similar struggles, and I wanted them to be honest, ask for help, and let me support them. I saw them as courageous when they confronted their fears, darkness, and failures head-on. I learned that it takes more courage to be vulnerable, ask for help, and accept others’ support than it does to wrestle alone in the dark. I learned that friends, family, and professionals actually wanted to help me. Each time that I reached outside of myself and asked for help, my burden was lightened a little bit because it was shared with another. Even if the problem was not solved by the other person, at least I felt more understood, more loved, and less alone.

4. Balance between trust and supervision

I am sure my adolescent self would not admit this, but I’ve learned from looking back at my experience that it was helpful to have a balance of trust and supervision from my parents. I think this balance is largely determined by what is safe for us. As I built up trust with my parents, the amount of supervision I needed decreased. I found that, as my parents trusted me more, I learned to trust myself more – giving me confidence in myself. From my view, the helpful parent provides love, encouragement, support, practical help, and compassionate supervision.Blaming, minimising, or not being taken seriously are not helpful. Being listened to, provided with appropriate help, and shown compassion are essential.

5. It is never the end

There is always hope. I know clichés like “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel” often don’t provide much reassurance at the time, but it turns out they are actually true. When you are at the bottom of the dark hole, it feels like every movement causes you to fall deeper. It is extremely difficult to see that each step actually takes you closer to the light of day. But others can see it. Others can see the bigger picture because they are not in the dark hole with you. In these times, when all hope seems to have escaped you – I learned that I could rely on at least one person around me to hold the hope for me. When I could not see it, they could. When I could not believe, they believed. They held my hope, and gave it back to me when I could hold it again. It is never the end. There is always hope.

Emma Edwards

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About the author: Emma Edwards is currently completing her doctorate degree. She was previously a registered mental-health professional, working in youth and adult mental-health settings. Her own service-user and family experience with mental-health struggles sparked her passion to support others and make a difference to those struggling to cope with difficult times.

Read more Recovery Notes here

Recovery Notes is an Engage Aotearoa project that asks people to share the top five tips and insights they have learned from or about their personal experiences of mental-health recovery or being a supporter.

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Copyright (c) Engage Aotearoa, 2014

CMHRT Welcomes New Board Members

Community Mental-Health Resources Trust (CMHRT) have elected four new Trustees to the board that sits behind the Engage Aotearoa website. The board now has nine trustees and is looking forward to what the future will bring. 

Meet the New CMHRT Trustees:

Taimi Allan is known for her high quality work on New Zealand’s ‘Like Minds, Like Mine’ programme, for the creation of reTHiNK, for her role at Mind and Body Consultants, as an expert speaker on social media for suicide prevention and as being a pragmatic and diplomatic policy advisor. As a leader in the field of mental health in New Zealand, Taimi is a highly sought after presenter, with measured success in reducing stigma and discrimination through innovative health promotion strategies including tailored education and training packages, social technology, media communications, entertainment and event production.

Emma Edwards holds a BA (Hons) in Psychology (University of Otago) and MSc in Health Psychology (University of Auckland). She is currently completing her Doctorate. Emma worked in the mental health field for approximately 4 years at the NGO Recovery Solutions (formerly Challenge Trust). She held roles as a support worker and then a DAPAANZ registered mental-health professional at a residential intensive rehabilitation service. Emma then became the Service Coordinator and established a new youth respite mental health service. When she began her doctorate, Emma worked as a trainer for Recovery Solutions, facilitating trainings and advising staff. Emma has service-user and family experience with mental health struggles and is passionate about working hard to impact mental health perceptions, policies, and resources on a larger scale.

Dean Manly has a background in supported employment, project research and writing, strategic planning, delivery and evaluation, and NGO Governance. Dean graduated from The University of Auckland Faculty of Arts with a MA (1st Class Hons) in 2000. His Doctor of Philosophy Research (2009) investigated representations of mental-health problems in cinema in order to examine the myths and assumptions shared by the popular culture media. He found stereotypes of the ‘Other’ are coded into western culture images and narratives. This was especially true for disenfranchised or marginalised groups othered by society. Dean is known for roles as National Manager of the Like Minds, Like Mine Project for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand and previous chairperson of the Council for Mental Wellbeing Trust (now Changing Minds).

Sheree Veysey is a counsellor and trainer who was initially drawn to working in the field of mental health through her lived experience of mental unwellness. She is passionate about people finding their own unique recipes for wellbeing and recovery which attend to the whole person and their situation. She has a Masters of Social Practice, Bachelor of Communication Studies and is a provisional member of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors. Sheree is also a writer and musician, as well as an adoring auntie and dog owner.