Many people are unaware of the true impact that depression has on high school students. Students and parents often assume that because depression may not affect them, it doesn’t affect many others either. However, this thought process is what creates such a hostile school atmosphere for those who struggle with both depression and anxiety. Because of this lack of awareness, a stigma is created. Depression is thought of as a “abnormal” or “weird” disorder, and people tend to think less of those who have it. However, students do not realize the impact that this stigma has on those who struggle with depression, and how much harder it makes their school life as they try to deal with it. In order to create a safer and more comfortable school environment for those struggling with depression, we must #conquerthestigma.
How many high school students experience depression? 20% of adolescents will experience depressive symptoms by the time they become adults. Additionally, 3.1 million young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year in the United States. Each of these statistics demonstrates the abundant presence of depression in high school communities that people tend to overlook or fail to understand. Below is an infographic that I created that discusses depression in teen girls, suicide, and the stigma attached to both.
Unawareness is my community:
How does stigma have a negative impact?
The main issue caused by the stigma surrounding depression is that it causes many teens with depression to feel unable and uncomfortable to reach out and seek help. Because of this, 60% of adolescence with depression do not receive any treatment or help. They are too ashamed or embarrassed to seek help because of the negative views that their peers have of depression.
MY SOLUTION: My main solution to the problem of stigma surrounding depression in my high school community is to spread awareness. One of the best ways to decrease the stigma surrounding depression is to educate both the students and their parents about depression. I plan on doing this through spreading flyers around my school, and through working with the counselors at my school to hold a meeting during an assembly period in which people can come and discuss depression and how to be supportive and empathetic to those who have it. As of right now, the projected date for this meeting is Thursday, May 9. This meeting will be a chance for anyone who wants to to voice their opinion and ask questions surrounding both depression and the stigma attached to it. Through this meeting, my goal is to spread more awareness and educate people about the importance of empathy and understanding.
Below are pictures of the flyers that I will hang around my campus:
Why does this matter? Obviously, depression has a large presence in high school communities, so through conquering the stigma, there would be positive effects. People with depression would feel more comfortable seeking help, so the high rates of depression could potentially decrease, as people continue to seek help and treatment. Depression not only affects those who have it, but those around them as well. From experience, I know that having a loved one suffer through depression is an extremely painful thing to witness. Something that is important to understand is that people who go through depression and anxiety are in serious pain that no one seems to understand, and we need to find a way to help them. Any little thing that can be done to decrease depression rates in the slightest is worth it. Helping those who are struggling around you MATTERS, and that is why I chose this project.
A Call to Change: I challenge YOU to make a vow to try your hardest to spread awareness and empathy throughout your school community. Take the reflective survey and sign this pledge (if you so desire) to indicate the effort that you are willing to put in to #conquerthestigma and make positive changes to your school community. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/62ZWT7Q
Overall, the most important change you can make to reduce the stigma is to create conversation. Through starting discussions and spreading awareness in your community, you will make a huge impact. It is important to understand that yes, starting a campaign or making a speech can spread awareness, but having conversations with your friends is just as important. As more people become more aware, they will continue to spread their awareness further and further. It is a chain reaction that only needs one voice to get started.
Additionally, the most effective ways for schools to conquer the stigma surrounding depression include the following:
- Encourage thoughtful conversations about mental health
- Introduce mindfulness
- Involve community experts
- Involve parents or trusted adults
- ALWAYS SHOW AND SPREAD EMPATHY
Visit: https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/med-u/high-schoolers-can-shift-peers-attitudes-about-depression-study-shows if you have further interest in the best ways to reduce stigma and the positive impact that reducing the stigma has.
Important Info Regarding Suicide:
Recognizing Depression and Suicidal Thoughts:
If you know someone with depression that may be having thoughts of suicide CALL THE SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255
“Adolescent Depression in Schools.” Newport Academy, 14 Feb. 2018, www.newportacademy.com/resources/mental-health/adolescent-depression-in-schools/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.
Dryden-Edwards, Roxanne. “Teen Depression.” MedicineNet, 15 Apr. 2014, www.medicinenet.com/teen_depression/article.htm. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.
Gavin, Kara. “High Schoolers Can Shift Peers’ Attitudes About Depression, Study Shows.” Michigan Health Lab, Michigan Medicine, 5 Mar. 2018, labblog.uofmhealth.org/med-u/high-schoolers-can-shift-peers-attitudes-about-depression-study-shows. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.
Lawson, Brooke. “5 ways schools can reduce the stigma of mental illness.” District Administration, 20 Sept. 2018, districtadministration.com/5-ways-schools-can-reduce-the-stigma-of-mental-illness/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.
Morin, Amy. “Depression Statistics Everyone Should Know.” Very Well Mind, 21 Mar. 2019, www.verywellmind.com/depression-statistics-everyone-should-know-4159056. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.
“What are the warning signs?.” Beyond Blue, https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/suicide-prevention/worried-about-suicide/what-are-the-warning-signs. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.