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Depression in VCE Students

You might already know that teenage depression is pretty common, particularly in the VCE years when stress and pressure are enormous. More and more teenagers are going through depression and related issues while growing up and this can be very hard not only for the child but also parents and friends.

How can you identify the signs of depression?

Depression is an illness that creates feelings of sadness, hopelessness and despair which persist for some time and can interfere with a persons ability to function.

It may also lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts. Depression is a human emotion that everyone feels at some time but when it is severe and persistent, it often refers to a mental health illness that requires treatment and some medical intervention.

Teens who are under stress, those who experience a loss, or those who have certain learning attention, behavior or anxiety disorders are all more likely to suffer from depression. Teenage girls are also more likely to develop depression than teenage boys. In many cases, depression has a genetic link and can run in families, most notably from parent to child.

You need to understand the signs of depression so you can look for them and get help. You also need to remember that a depressed teen will not react the same way that a depressed adult will and you should not expect them to just “get over it”.

If you notice one or more of the signs of depression in your child you should seek help for them. Often parents don’t even notice the signs until it is too late. Some teens hide it well and sometimes parents simply don’t know what to look for or they think it is “just a phase”.

Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms:

• Frequent sadness, tearfulness and/or crying. • Hopelessness • Decreased interest in activities • Low energy and/or persistent boredom • Loss of interest in prior hobbies or enjoyments • Social isolation, loss of or lack of friends and peers • Poor communication • Low self esteem • Guilt • Increased irritability or hostility • Easier to anger, aggressive • Difficulty in relationships • Frequent physical complaints such as headaches, stomachaches, etc • Missing or skipping school, poor performance in schoolwork, avoiding school activities • Poor concentration • Change in eating or sleeping patterns • Tries to run away or threatens to run away from home • Thoughts or talk of suicide • Suicide attempt or physical harm to self • Harm to others or threaten to harm other • Alcohol and drug abuse

It is very important that if you think you, your friends or child may be suffering from depression you get them help as soon as possible. Some parents think they can help their children on their own but getting help from a health care professional is always the safest approach. A health care professional can also then tell you in what ways parents can best help teenagers through their depression.

It is also important to contact the school and discuss your concerns with your child's teachers and determine if these behaviours are occuring within school time as well. Chances are these behaviours will also be exhibited at school by other teachers, co-ordinators, homeroom teachers etc.

Early diagnosis is important in helping teenagers recover from depression. Getting it taken care of as soon as possible ensures that it will be easier to treat and fewer long term problems stemming from it.

If you would like more information about depression in VCE students and what to do about it I recommend the following 4 resources: 1. Kids help line at http://www.kidshelp.com.au/ (which has phone, web and email counselling), 2. Beyond Blue - http://www.beyondblue.org.au and 3. Reach Out: http://www.reachout.com.au. 4. Lastly (and probably the most importantly) I recommend your local GP - get help by talking to someone...it will make a difference!

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