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Depression and low mood (young people)

Messages to other young people about depression and low mood

Young people we spoke with were passionate about helping other young people who were going through similar experiences with depression and low mood. Despite the very difficult times and even prolonged periods of depression many had experienced, they had all come through and were on the road to getting better. They wanted to pass on messages of courage, hope and strength to others who are perhaps going through something similar now. Above all, what these young people wanted to say to others was; “You are not alone, I was there too”.
 
“Hang in there, it WILL get better!”
 
When going through difficult periods of depression, many young people had been reassured that “it will get better”, and “it’ll pass”. They said that at the time they had seen such comments as flippant or ignorant and hadn’t taken any notice of them. Having come through depression, they finally saw it for themselves. Each of them had made it through the worst.
 
Some young people said that if there was one piece of advice they could give back  to themselves  when they were struggling that would be to “hang in there” and “to stick with it”. Even though at the time the future seemed insurmountable and daunting, with time, patience and work they had all gotten through it. Many emphasised that they had to allow themselves time, and to “be easy” on themselves. Not setting their goals too high and breaking tasks and days into smaller, more manageable chunks, helped them get through each day at a time and to feel a sense of achievement. See ‘Self-help and coping strategies’.
 

“Hang in there!”

“Hang in there!”

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Mandy' Hang in there. It gets better.
 
Frankie' That’s pretty much all I can say.
 
Mandy' It’s the cliché, it takes time, and we used to get so angry when people said that ‘cos it’s so hypocritical, it’s so rubbish, I don’t want it to take time, I don’t have time to spare type thing.
 
Sian' It does. Sometimes you think you can, you just want to snap your fingers and be all over with but it’s not like that, it is a long working process and you do have to, I think you have to wanna be helped because at first if you don’t want to be helped then you’re not gonna accept it.
 
Mandy' You’re not going to get better.
 
Sian' You’ve got to accept things so. Like at first before, for me it was like I wasn’t accepting things were this is the way it goes, whereas like when you finally do accept it things are a whole lot easier.
 
Mandy' Stay involved still over your care. Because that is the way you will come out of this. The way you, you know, you’ll build the confidence and you really will feel you’ve achieved something, if you stick at it. You know you can just, it sounds really, really clichéd but just hang in there and stick with it, ‘cos you know we were all at the point where we were drugged up and in a psychiatric unit and you know, we’re sat here now able to talk about it with confidence, smiles and wanting to live, a lot of the time. Most of the time. You know, you’re still going to have your bad days; we’re not going to say its all hunky dory. You’ll have good and bad days.
 

“Set yourself small goals and you’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve.”

“Set yourself small goals and you’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve.”

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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Just take it a step at a time. Never ever set your sights too high. Want to achieve, do what you can, but don’t overwhelm yourself because it won’t help, it’ll set you back, just do small bits, as much as you know you can cope with, hour by hour, minute by minute if you have to. We’ve all been there; it’s been getting through the next ten minutes. You know, just set yourself small goals and try and stick to them, if you can’t, you can’t. Try again the next day. Just build it up bit by bit and you’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve.
Allowing themselves time was essential. Young people said that acceptance, recovery and even finding the right treatment and solutions for their situation took time. Also, over time, “life changes”; life moves on and some of the things which had made them feel worse (for example school, or particular people) would become part of the past.
 

Trust your “own instinct” that says everything is not right.

Trust your “own instinct” that says everything is not right.

Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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And like the general and more holistic approach to oneself and trust that instinct just because you tell yourself, oh like I’m not, “Like my life isn’t so bad, like I shouldn’t feel this way,” doesn’t make you feel any better. And I think that’s what a lot of people do is they think like, “Oh I’m just homesick,” or “I’m just a bit down because of this and that,” and then I can try to like, there’s a voice in your head that tries to talk yourself out of it.
 

“The situation you’re in now, is not the situation that will go on.”

“The situation you’re in now, is not the situation that will go on.”

Age at interview: 27
Sex: Female
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And also to remember that the situation you’re in is not the situation that goes on, even if it means you’re scratching off the days on a wall somewhere till you get out of school or whatever, do it, because the world is so massive. Like I was saying about how I’ve met my best friends. Can you imagine if I’d have thought that school was my be-all and end-all, I’d never have met these amazing people, you know, move to a new city, done loads of new stuff, ‘cos when you’re in the thick of it, you believe that that is the be-all and end-all and that is, if I said anything to myself, it would be like, “No, no, no, no, no. This is what’s gonna happen' is you’re going to move away from these bastard people. You’re gonna meet brilliant new people, who see you for the lovely person you are, or I’ll pay them a fiver a week to be my friend.
 
Just to like speak up, and keep speaking until someone listens. The worst thing you can do with mental illness is stay silent.
“It’s not your fault!”
 
Many young people had struggled with low self esteem and lack of confidence. Many had blamed themselves, or felt guilty for their low mood and felt they were a burden on others; family, friends and even health professionals. They said that the key to getting better had been the realisation that the depression and low mood they experienced was not caused by anything they had done, or hadn’t done. Once they got over the feeling that depression was their “fault”, they could stop punishing and blaming themselves and gradually start being more proactive. A few people called for “focus”, “determinism” and fighting spirit. One woman described how she finally realised that, like anyone else, she “deserved to be happy”. Another one said;
 
“I had times that I wanted to end my life, I used to do horrible things to my body because I thought it deserved it, but you owe it to yourself not to. Your body didn’t cause you this heartache; depression did, it doesn’t deserve being attacked. You don’t deserve inflicting pain on yourself because it is NOT your fault.”
 
Young people said that it was only once they had accepted that there was a problem and accepted they didn’t have to try and get through it alone, that they were able to receive the help around them, and to start getting better. A few people also pointed out how important it was to accept that they felt depressed, sad or angry, and not always try to fight it, ignore it or pretend those feelings weren’t real.

Something many young people said they had found difficult was putting themselves first. Focusing on “the one and only, yourself.” and “learning to love yourself” were key messages they wanted to pass onto others.

 

“Don’t let it get worse. Be determined, focussed and make yourself do it.”

“Don’t let it get worse. Be determined, focussed and make yourself do it.”

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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I would definitely tell her, people going through this like, like God tell somebody, don’t sit there and let it get worse because it’s not gonna help you, you have to tell someone, you really need to ‘cos it’s hard, it gets harder as it goes on. It gets much harder, it’s get hard to lie, it gets hard to cover things up and just cope with it in general. In the end you’ll probably do exactly what I did, you know drop out of a college and end up drifting in between loads of different things. And you need to focus on what you want and realise that you have to get there because giving up won’t do.
 
You have to do it and prove to yourself you can do it and that you are worth something because sitting there crying in your room when you’re alone it’s, it feels like the end of, it’s the end of the world, it feels like it’s Armageddon and it feels like there’s nothing you can do about it. But being determined, focussing on what you want to do, and making yourself do it, even when you really don’t want to do something and still doing it, it’ll help in the long run. You’ll realise when you look back, you’ll laugh and think, I’m so glad I made myself do that and didn’t sit in the dark on my own. It’s it’ll be worth it if you make yourself do it.
 

“Do it for yourself, not other people.”

“Do it for yourself, not other people.”

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Mandy' You’ve got to learn to love yourself. You know,
 
Frankie' I’m still in that process.
 
Sian' If you don’t know how to love yourself then no-one, no-one’s going to love you.
 
Mandy' And if you can’t love, learn to accept yourself. Because that, that’s a heck of a step closer to living for other people because then you’ll always be like stuck on what they want.
 
Sian' Do it for yourself really. Do it for yourself. Don’t do it for anyone else.
 
Frankie' And if you end up losing the person you’re living for then you’re stuck. So you do need to live for yourself, not other people. 
“Don’t suffer in silence”

“The worst thing you can do is suffer in silence”, one woman summarised. After years of self-harming and hurting herself in the hope that someone would notice her pain and offer her help, she finally realised all she needed to do was “open my mouth and say one word”. The barrier to asking for help that she’d built in her mind over a long time, wasn’t real and had prevented her from getting help sooner rather than later. Another woman said when she realised she had the freedom to “moan” and “vent” out pressures in therapy, she could get more out of it.
 
Young people couldn’t emphasise enough how important they thought it was to ask for help. They encouraged others to “speak up”, “not to coop up alone”, and to “stop analysing and get help”. They knew how hard it could be to ask for help but nobody had regretted making that first step. People also emphasised that sometimes what was needed was action, not overanalysing the situation;
 
“Don’t over rationalise things …and like just make up explanations for everything. Sometimes being able to rationally say that something is wrong doesn’t heal it.”
 

“Stop analysing what causes it and go sort yourself out.”

“Stop analysing what causes it and go sort yourself out.”

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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I would say just stop analysing it please. It’s there, stop trying to analyse what’s causing it and go sort yourself out. I just wish I’d said and don’t, stop being ashamed of it. It’s that, there’s still the social stigma attached, you know I would have said, oh, I don’t know, like I would have just, you know, I won’t, would’ve want to sit and say everything I’ve said, right now, to myself, I would’ve sat myself down and said, “Look there is no reason for it, get over that, you have to get over it before you move on, because otherwise you never ever will.
 
Move on, it’ll take a step at a time, don’t just think there’s only one option ‘cos there never is, and look after yourself you deserve to be happy, just because you’re not suffering the kind of, things shown in movies and on TV that everyone thinks you have to suffer, does not mean there isn’t anything wrong. I wish I had told myself that because you get these, you know, things in soaps and someone’s suffering this kind of depression, and it’s just, everyone’s unique, if everyone thinks differently everyone’s going to you know suffer differently as well. I wish I’d told myself that, don’t be ashamed of it, just because, you know you’re not a burden.
Many also wished they had asked for help sooner than they did and several felt some of their added problems could have even been prevented, had they gotten help earlier on. As one woman said;
 
“So really I would have said to myself ten years ago, “Just ask for help.” And don’t deal with it on your own because you can’t.”
 

“Speak up”. People won’t know what’s going on with you unless you tell them. “They’re not psychic”.

“Speak up”. People won’t know what’s going on with you unless you tell them. “They’re not psychic”.

Age at interview: 27
Sex: Female
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Speak up. I was going through hell at home, and my only way that I thought of anyone noticing would be to lose loads of weight, so I lost loads of weight, and still nobody asked questions. Why would they? They’re not psychic. You have to tell people and even if they, and like I said, you’ve got to remember, my main fear was telling an adult what was going on, was that I was gonna be so sub-standard and like , massively weak or whatever, and then now I’m older and I’ve had young people come to me and say I’ve got this problem, I can’t imagine why I was ever scared of in the first place of speaking up, because to me and I expect most adults, certainly that I’ve met, would be flattered, privileged and honoured that somebody had come to them with that, with whatever was going on.
 

“Adolescence is a painful experience for everyone. Find someone you can talk to.”

“Adolescence is a painful experience for everyone. Find someone you can talk to.”

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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Get yourself as good a network as you can. It it’s online then so be it. If it’s parents so be it, if it’s pets so be it. Just whoever, or whatever, as long as you have someone you can talk to. Life does usually get easier after the teenage mark, and I would say that it doesn’t matter who you are, adolescence and puberty and teenage hood is a very, very painful emotional time for everyone. Some people might mask it with the good life like having luxury and stuff, but they still feel angst inside somehow I think, like wanting to fit in, wanting to be popular and so on and so forth. Keeping busy is the best way to find out about yourself. And if there’s a an obsession you’ve got, if you’ve got Asperger’s try and get involved with it in a society if you can, or make your own society, if there isn’t one already. Try and find people like you.
 

“Don’t coop up alone.”

“Don’t coop up alone.”

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Male
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The one thing I would say to anyone in that situation, don’t coop yourself up, if you can avoid situations where you are going to be alone, keep your mind busy, take up a new sport, new hobby, even playing chess, do you know what I mean? Something as you know I would see quite slow and I wouldn’t say boring but quite slow and tedious, you know, just something that you enjoy, just do that. If you get worse go to your doctor. If you need help, just take a mate along, if you ain’t got any mates that understand you which I know it sounds really bad, or you ain’t got any mates but you know, I had that, I had to do it with my Mum.
Getting a good support network of friends, family, online friends, support groups, pets, neighbours, health professionals, was essential. Even having just one supportive person in their lives could make all the difference. They also encouraged others to be persistent and to not settle for something they felt wasn’t helping. Rather than stopping counselling altogether, for example, they suggested changing the counsellor or finding a different form of therapy. One woman said; “if it doesn’t work with the first one, it doesn’t mean that it’s not ever going to work.”
 
They also wanted other young people to know that there is always help available, even when it doesn’t feel like it or even when “you can’t see it yourself”. One woman said it’s just about “taking the leap of faith, you won’t be worse off by trying”. Just opening your mouth would get the ball rolling and be the “beginning of the journey to recovery”.
 

“The help is out there even if you can’t see it.”

“The help is out there even if you can’t see it.”

Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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The help is out there even if you can’t see it. Because at the time when I was depressed there were people offering to help and I just couldn’t see it at all, I thought I was on my own, and, why would anyone else care. And there is the support out there, I mean through the therapy and things I saw quite a few people, and it took a while to find that person where it worked with them, where I could have that sort of relationship to be able to discuss problems. And sometimes it takes time to find the right person. So just, if it doesn’t work with the first one, it doesn’t mean that it’s not ever going to work, and you’re not ever going to be able to get the help, or that it’s your fault that it doesn’t work. It’s just sort of that clash in personalities I guess. And just to sort of look around for information.
 

“When you make the first step you realise you can change and you are not alone”.

“When you make the first step you realise you can change and you are not alone”.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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I’m really happy that I made the step that I did because the first step really is the hardest part. Waiting to go in into the doctors to say, can I have a referral, or therapy or, or even going to your first therapy session, you’re stood outside you know, you know you stand and chain smoking you know, you might just stand there and like be a nervous wreck beforehand, but as soon as you get in you sit down, the, the first words that come out of your mouth are just tumbling, it’s so easy and after that it’s you’re not falling anymore, you’ve stopped yourself. And you can climb back up and stand up and say well, I’ve got through this and it’s, it’s a nice feeling once you’ve made the first step. ‘Cos you realise that you can change, that you’re not alone, that there are people out there who do genuinely wanna help you.
“Even when you’re at the lowest of the low, I was laid on a road my back an open wound, covered in my own blood from my head, that’s the lowest point I’ve ever been, just looking up, just thinking, “What have I done?” It is not worth it. The best thing for you to do is to talk to someone and it’s such a release, a relief, it is just like all the weight you’ve been carrying around on your chest and shoulders has just gone. Okay you’ve still got depression and there is a way to recovery, but there are people to help.”

Last reviewed June 2017.

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