We all have our ups and downs, but sometimes it seems like we are stuck at a down. Adolescents and young adults often face times of upheaval that sometimes take a toll on their morale. If you have been feeling sad and melancholic for several weeks, it may be depression. But the line between depression and feeling down is not always clear. You should know that these two mood states are very different, especially in terms of their consequences on one’s physical and psychological health. What is the difference between depression and sadness or melancholy? What are the symptoms and consequences of depression? This is what we will see together in this article.

What is depression in young people?

In young people, depression is similar to a feeling of deep sadness that can last weeks or months. In certain cases, it can last over 2 years, but that is rare. The duration of a depression varies from person to person and the same person may experience several depressive episodes during their lifetime.

Depression is a mood disorder and a mental health issue. It needs to be treated because it can have serious consequences in a young person's life.

What are the symptoms of depression in young people?

The symptoms of depression are not the same for all young people. Almost invariably, a depressed person loses interest in activities that they used to enjoy. If you or someone you know loses interest in your (or their) favorite activities and hobbies over a long period of time, this may be a sign of depression.

Some physical symptoms may appear as well, such as noticeable weight fluctuation, troubles with sleeping or staying asleep, as well as a significant loss of energy and concentration. These can also be combined with difficulty in keeping up with one’s basic needs such as showering, bathing and eating.

All of these physical symptoms can indicate psychological distress in a young person. And while these vary from person to person, in the case of depression, the symptoms that do occur are intense and do not get better with time on their own.

The psychological health of a depressed person may deteriorate to the point where one may start to constantly think about death, suicidal ideation, and see an increase in self-destructive behaviour.

What is the difference between depression and sadness?

It is very common to go through periods of sadness, especially after a failure (at school, at work) or a romantic breakup, for example. The loss of appetite, lack of motivation, and feeling of lethargy that come with these bouts of sadness are worrisome and are real, but they usually do not last a very long time – things get better.

Thus, that is why it is easy to confuse depression and sadness, as the early symptoms are very similar. However, melancholy and sadness rarely last longer than 2 weeks among young people.

What are the causes of depression in young people?

Depression is most often the result of a combination of events and factors that have accumulated in a person's life. It is sometimes difficult for adults to see the events in the lives of young people from their perspective and to truly understand them. Each person has a different sensitivity and tolerance for stress. In that sense, some incidents that may seem minor to one person can be overwhelming in a young person's life.

Relationships with family, friends and romantic partners can also disrupt the lives of young people. Conflict and bullying also have a strong negative impact. In addition, the teenage years are often a source of stress. Indeed, there is a strong social pressure on one’s self-image (such as through social networks) as well as on academic success.

To summarize, the most common causes of depression in youth are:

  • Family history when a parent has already suffered from depression;
  • Parents separating or divorcing;
  • The death of a loved one;
  • Being a victim of bullying;
  • Conflicts with parents, siblings and friends;
  • Stress induced by social and academic pressure;
  • Failing an exam, a competition, etc.

What is the impact of depression on young people and how can we help them?

Young people suffering from depression will see their quality of life, as well as their mental and social health, gradually deteriorate. Different areas of their lives will be affected by the illness, whether it is in terms of physical health, social ties, studies or work.

The personality of a depressed teenager is also affected by depression. Their attitude and mood will change to the point where they will sometimes be told their behavior is out of character. A depressed person tends to be withdrawn, sad and will see a decline (quantitatively and qualitatively) in social relationships.

Depression is an illness that must be treated or the symptoms will worsen. Only someone in the medical field can diagnose depression. If you think you may be suffering from depression, or if you have doubts about someone you know, there are several options available to you.

You can start by consulting with someone from the medical community. Family doctors and pediatricians can assess whether you have any medical problems that affect your mood. For example, a hormonal imbalance can affect your overall mood. They can also put you in touch with psychologists or social workers who can help.

If you need help quickly, you can call a support service and talk to professionals. Tel Jeunes is a telephone service you can call any day of the week. The workers are available to answer your questions, support you in a non-judgmental way and direct you to the appropriate resources.

If you are concerned about a young person’s wellness and are afraid they will hurt themselves, do not hesitate to call an emergency service.

In all cases, the pain caused by depression is real, even if it is not visible as it would be with a broken bone. A person suffering from depression needs help and support.

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LOVE supports youth to thrive through programs and healthy relationships that build emotional intelligence and help overcome the challenges they face. Our participants emerge from LOVE’s programs with greater resilience, heightened skills, and the confidence to be inspirational leaders.