If you are asked to picture a depressed person, most of you would picture someone who looks and acts sad. The picture we form in our head is of someone who doesn’t want to get off their beds, someone who eats less or more than usual, someone who finds it difficult to sleep or sleeps all the time, a person who is unable to concentrate, and mostly someone doesn’t talk much. Depression in children and teenagers can look like that. 

Today, it’s estimated that nearly 18 percent of children between the age group of 12-18 have at least one major episode of depression in a year. And that number is steadily growing. But has it always been like this? Teenagers with depression and panic attacks were unheard of in my youthful days. I think it’s a problem that started with the dawn of the 21st century.

I have seen teenagers suffering from depression, and therefore, I know for a fact that depression has a way of replacing their confidence with anxiety and self-hate. It reaches a point where they are unable to find happiness in little things they enjoyed doing, and all it makes them do is sit in their room and cry, usually for no reason at all. When asked about it, they tend to put up a brave face and say, ‘I’ll get over it’. Is social media to blame for this? I’m not sure. At best, social media allows an individual to connect and keep up with friends we don’t see very often. At its worst, social media might make our children feel inadequate or left out. Teens who are depressed might rely more on social media than face-to-face interactions, which makes things even worse.

We know that teenagers may not realise that they are showing signs of depression and therefore, may not seek help. According to the WHO, India is the most depressed country in the world with at least 7.5 percent of its population suffering from the same. In a country with a population of 1.3 billion, that’s a really huge number. What’s more shocking is that there’s an extreme shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists in India. As of 2016, it’s as low as “one in 1,00,000 people.”

In July this year, I was in Delhi for the inauguration of Rotary Happy Clinic, the first of many facilities that aim to address the growing cases of mental and psychological disorders in our country. This clinic is being operated from a Gurudwara, and it made me happy to see that our society is acknowledging this issue and coming out to provide support to the affected. We need such clinics in many more places across our country for the sake of our younger generation. That being said, clinics should be the last step. 

Having myself studied Psychology in my graduation days, it worries me that as a country we are trying to push this menace under the carpet. Most cases of teenage depression can be tackled just by lending your ear. If you think that your child or a friend is depressed, then I suggest you go talk to them. Bring up your concerns, but in a loving, and non-judgemental way. Open up a dialogue with them and ask what’s worrying them. And one of the best responses when they finally open up to you, is asking them, “Do you want me to get involved, offer advice or just listen to you?” And trust me when I say this, most of the time, they just want you to listen.

Photo by Paola Chaaya on Unsplash