My family has a history of mental illness. My mother has battled depression her entire life, my uncle juggled both depression and substance abuse, and after a particularly hard couple of months beginning with my uncle’s suicide in mid March, I’m just coming to terms with what may be my own depression.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services 8% of youth experience depression. Additionally, a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information reveals that 62% of adolescents surveyed with diagnosed depression felt as if they experienced stigmatization in relationships with peers, while 22%-46% of adolescents experienced it in relationships with family members or school faculty.
Although I’m lucky enough to have never experienced stigmatization in relationships with family and faculty, I have certainly experienced it with my peers.
Earlier this month when I reached out to a friend and revealed that I believed I was experiencing depression, I yearned and expected my confession to be met with the compulsory “Oh, I’m so sorry” and “Let’s hang out soon okay?” Instead, all I got was “Oh that’s too bad. Hey I have to go now, I’ll talk to you later.” I’ve tried to talk to this person since, only for them to ignore me or avoid conversation until recently when they admitted that my situation made them uncomfortable, and they’d rather wait to talk until I’m “feeling better.”
That hurt. However, it is an opportunity to illustrate a lesson for the 92% of teens that do not suffer from depression. There is no reason to be uncomfortable in the presence of a peer who has reached out to you for help in managing their depression. While it is unlikely that you can provide help in the long run, having a friend to trust and to talk to that will stay by your side is the greatest reassurance that everything will be okay.