Teen angst is a part of growing up, here's how youths can be better equipped to cope and be well-adjusted.
While teen angst is a part of growing up, not all youths are equipped with adequate coping abilities. Some may plunge into a debilitating state of depression. It doesn’t help that youths of today have to deal with increasing competitiveness both at school and work, and rising pressures to keep up with perfect appearances on social media such as Facebook or Snapchat.
Depression is the most common mental illness in Singapore, and 1 out of 16 Singaporeans will have exhibited depression symptoms at least once in their lifetime. If you are a concerned individual with a peer or loved one fighting youth depression, how can you help?
Changing our help-seeking behaviour
Even though most of us don’t think twice about visiting a doctor for an ailment like the common flu, people dealing with depression symptoms tend to take much longer to seek help. This is because people with depression or their immediate family may not actually be aware that the signs and symptoms point to depression. They may even think that it is a phase that will pass with time or that they will eventually “snap out of it”.
Then there is the social stigma of depression and mental illness. While many high-profile people such as Stephanie Sun, Mavis Hee and Yvonne Lim have stepped out to talk about their battles with depression, it still remains a topic that people avoid discussing in public for fear of coming off as unstable, unreliable or weak. De-stigmatising depression begins with the understanding that depression is a medical condition much like the stomach flu or even a chronic illness such as hypertension, and people who have depression do not choose to be afflicted. Raising awareness and educating people will help create a mindset shift and change the cultural norm.
Establishing a safety network
Recognising that those afflicted with depression have difficulty getting help, the onus is often on their support network to recognise depression symptoms and help them overcome it. There are ways to cure depression and early intervention is one of the keys to effective treatment.
The first port of call is often family. As they live in close proximity, parents and siblings should be the first to notice any marked changes in behaviour, personality or appearance of their loved ones. As family members are closest to the person with depression, they tend to also have the most influence to initiate treatment and encourage those afflicted to get help.
Family and peers
If a buddy of yours has turned down one too many invitations or has been acting out of character, it could be cause for concern. More so if that friend has confided in you that he or she has had trouble sleeping or has been feeling in a low mood. If they have been increasingly absent from work or school, do raise a red flag and have a conversation with them. Acquaint yourself with the signs and symptoms of depression so that you can recognise them in your close friends.
A project recently started in Singapore called ‘HappYouth’, trains young people to cope with emotions in a crisis and to reach out to friends with mental health issues. Youth leaders are trained to become positive mentors and happiness ambassadors to help their peers.
School and work
Chronic or severe absenteeism from school or work is a clear sign that something is amiss. However, people with depression often can still go through the motions and show up for their work obligations. Being a place of daily contact, education institutions and work organisations are in the next best position to recognise depression symptoms and encourage treatment.
However, the stigma surrounding mental illnesses remains strong and many do not talk about their depression for fear of jeopardising their jobs or, for job seekers, a potential job. In particular, those in positions of influence, such as school personnel and employers, should be equipped with basic mental health literacy to manage and support students and employees with mental health concerns.
Support from the community
With the social stigma tied to mental illness, people with depression often seek help anonymously, turning to counselling services or hotlines available. There are also many support groups available to help those afflicted and their caretakers to deal with the disorder.
How you can help personally
Here are some practical ways with which you can help a loved one overcome depression:
- Encourage them to get appropriate professional help.
- Support healthy living habits such as:
- Exercise — physical activity aids in relaxation and one will feel more positive if one is fit.
- Exploring interests — pursuing hobbies helps one to break the monotony and also encourage relaxation.
- Going on a break — taking some time out can help one to get out of a rut and return feeling more refreshed.
- Be patient, understanding and empathetic.
Resources and helplines
If you need more information/resources to help you cope, you can go to Belle, the Beyond the Label helpbot.
SOS (Samaritans of Singapore) also provides emotional support for those in crisis.
Suicide prevention and crisis helplines