This month’s blog is focusing on mental health, specifically depression. It is a 2-part series that will continue next week.

Teenage years can be really difficult. It’s normal to feel sad or irritable every now and then, especially living in a new country and culture. In this time of uncertainty with COVID-19, you may be feeling worried or anxious. It also can be lonely being forced to stay home and not able to be around friends at school.

When those feelings don’t go away or they become overwhelming, you may be suffering from depression. Depression is much more than feeling sad for a short period of time. It’s a mood disorder that can change the way you think, feel, and function in your daily life. When you’re depressed, you may feel hopeless and isolated, and it can seem that no one understands. But you are not alone. About 1 in 5 teenagers suffer with depression. 

It can be hard to describe how depression feels, but here are some common symptoms:

  • You often feel irritable, sad, or angry.
  • Things you used to enjoy don’t seem fun anymore.
  • You feel bad about yourself—worthless, guilty, or just “wrong” in some way.
  • You have trouble sleeping or have trouble staying awake.
  • You’ve turned to alcohol or drugs to try to change the way you feel.
  • You have frequent headaches or other physical pains or problems.
  • You’ve gained or lost weight without trying to.
  • You’re having trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, or remembering things.
  • You feel helpless or hopeless.
  • You’re thinking about death or suicide. (If so, talk to someone like your AHLI Coordinator or host parent right away!)

Depression is not your fault. It is not sign of weakness or a character flaw. There are many stresses in life, and sometimes this stress may change how well our body manages our emotions.  Fortunately if you are experiencing depression, there are ways to help your body recover. We’ll discuss these more in our next blog.  

The most important thing is to talk to someone about how you feel, even though it may be hard at first. It’s important to remember that many people struggle with feelings like these at one time or another. Even though it may not feel like it at the moment, people do love and care about you. It is very helpful to share your worries with someone who will listen and care about what you say. Asking for help is a sign of strength, and is the first step towards feeling better.

Feel free to WeChat me to share how you have been staying busy during your time home from school.  Have you been finding ways to use your creative skills? Or be active? Or stay engaged with your host family while still sheltering in place due to the coronavirus?