Depression is More Complex Than It Seems

depression2

Several years ago, a sixth-grade boy was bullied by a group of high-schoolers. The bullies soon turned to pick on the boy’s best friend, a girl by the name of Ashlee Crouch. According to Crouch, they did this to emotionally affect the boy.

The bullying became violence. The group threatened to keep hurting Crouch until the boy died. As a result,
the boy decided to end his life.

Ashlee Crouch, now 15 and a sophomore at Antelope High School, has been battling depression for many years since.

“It just destroyed me because he was my best friend and I was his,” Crouch said, “and then the next day, he
was gone.”

The depression has interfered with Crouch’s life, and her experiences have been limited because of it.

“It’s caused me to not have as much fun as I could’ve had,” she said, “and it’s just ruined the great moments
I could’ve had and a lot of relationships.”

In addition to herself, Crouch has had other friends who have had depression. The burden of what they have
gone through has impacted her as well. Crouch said that their depression has affected her by causing her to worry whether or not she was going to see her friends the next day.

Although it is not limited to a specific gender, depression is more commonly diagnosed in females.

“A lot of things that happens to girls is that their mind becomes a hell and they just hate themselves and they don’t know why,” Crouch said.

Crouch is currently working on recovery. But before she learned coping techniques, Crouch had difficulty
getting through depression.

“I had a really bad way of coping. It was cutting,” she said. “Now I have scars all over my arms and my
stomach and a few on my thighs. But I have a safety plan now so I can’t do any of that no matter how I feel.”

One piece of advice Crouch has for others going through depression is to “find a psychiatrist or counselor” and to “find one that you really connect with because if you don’t connect with one you’re not going to get any better.”

She also says to try your best to stay away from the things that made you sad and the things that
triggered/trigger the depression.

“You do have meaning to your life. At some point you’re going to make a breakthrough,” Crouch said. “Not every
day is going to be terrible. It might be terrible now, but things get worse before they get better.”

“(Depression) is like you’re swimming and you can breathe, but you feel like you’re drowning all the time,” Crouch said. “Everyday. No matter what you do, you’re not happy.”

***

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 6.8 percent of Americans suffer from depression every year. This number continues to grow.

Major depressive disorder, commonly known as depression, is a mental disorder sometimes caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or a nerve cell malfunction. Experts say that depression is the “common cold” of mental illnesses.

“It can be a chemical imbalance in the brain which causes them to have these emotions,” said school psychologist Shietel Chhana. “But it can also be environmental – something that’s happened in your life. It can be family situations. It can be medical.”

Causes of depression include but are not limited to genetics, abuse, conflict, drug usage (including some medications), death among relatives or close friends, other illnesses and traumatic events.

Although commonly associated with mental complications, depression is often interlinked with physical changes as well.

“There are different types of neurotransmitters in the brain that, when they are either off balance or are not being regulated by the body properly or they’re not being produced in the correct amounts, (they) can cause a person to have different physical feelings … that can manifest themselves into different illnesses,” Granite Bay High School health teacher Kathie Sinor said.

The build up of physical and mental symptoms for an individual can interfere with their daily lives. Depression is recognized as being one of the top interferences at work. It can also interfere with habits such as eating, sleeping and socializing.

“Human beings do very fluid interaction between what we think, what we do, how we feel, (and) how we function,” psychologist Katherine Kilgore said.

The changes within the brain affect the way one is able to perceive certain situations. This misinterpretation can lead to others’ lack of understanding as well.

“People still aren’t open about sharing that they’re going through (depression) because they’re embarrassed or afraid people are not going to understand,” school nurse Jennifer Serrano said.

According to Chhana, this misunderstanding comes from not being aware of the full situation, which makes it harder to interact with people who are dealing with depression.

Depression is often associated with the idea of someone who is extremely unhappy. However, Serrano suggests another type of mood caused by depression.

“I think there’s the idea that it’s just someone who’s sad all the time,” Serrano said. “But it’s really a lot more than that.  It’s almost an apathy so not really caring so much.  Not so much even sad because that takes effort, but it’s a very gray neutral.”

Living with depression not only affects your mental health, but also many other aspects of daily life that are often overlooked.

“It can interfere with their ability to socialize directly because they’re not necessarily … able to understand their environment in the moment,” Kilgore said. “Their actions are going to be unaccepted by the people around them.  That they ‘look weird’ and are rejected by their social group.  They can make poor decisions that then interfere with their ability to take good care of themselves.”

There are several different ways to take care of oneself. Although all strategies may not work for everyone, Kilgore suggests some of the possibilities.

“Eat real food, exercise, maintain your weight- the things we all hear from our doctor on how to be healthy,” Kilgore said. “Your brain is a part of your body, and it’s an organ like any other organ in your body.  It needs to be taken care of.”

There are also resources available at the school to assist in recovery. Chhana said that students who are in need of help can talk to their counselors or they can come find her in room P1.

Published in December 2014

Cowritten by Hannah Xu, Anjali Shrivastava and Carissa Lewis

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