All young people feel down from time to time, but for some, depression can become a serious problem
A young man sits in silhouette at the end of a tunnel

Depression is when a person feels sad, lonely, down, anxious, or stressed for long periods of time. It can affect your everyday life and prevent you from living your life normally. Different methods of treatment are available for people who are depressed including talking therapies and in some instances medication. You can also take positive steps to look after your own mental health.

Symptoms of Depression

  • feeling sad or anxious most of the time
  • not wanting to do things that you previously enjoyed,
  • not wanting to meet up with friends or avoiding situations
  • sleeping more or less than normal
  • eating more or less than normal
  • feeling irritable, upset, miserable or lonely
  • being self-critical
  • feeling hopeless
  • maybe wanting to self-harm
  • feeling tired and not having any energy

Depression can be a reaction to stresses such as exams, bullying, abuse, or family troubles. But it can also happen without any cause. If someone in your family has depression, or has had it in the past, then you may be more likely to get it too. Most people recover from depression within 3-12 months, although some will need long-term treatment..

Take action: Just like looking after your physical health, by keeping fit, eating well, and setting healthy habits, you can also look after your mental health through using the five ways to wellbeing. These give you five actions to do every day that help your mental health. They are: connect (talk to people), be active (go outside and do something physical), take notice (observe, take a photo, be absorbed in something), keep learning (this can be at school, or just reading or practising a new skill) and give (help someone else). Looking after your mental wellbeing can make you more resilient.

Depression is not the end

Lots of creative, happy and successful people have at one time or another had depression. Through effective self care and treatment they have taken the steps they need to manage, cure or improve their depression.

In collaboration with the WHO to mark World Mental Health Day, writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone tells the story of overcoming the "black dog of depression".


I had a black dog, his name was depression

Getting Help

The most important thing to do is to talk to someone. Letting someone who cares about you know how you feel is often the best way to start feeling better.

You could talk to your parents, siblings, friends, a teacher or the school health nurse.

You can also make an appointment to talk to your GP (doctor).

If you are 16-17 you can self-refer to Community CAMHS for specialist help.

You can call Childline on 0800 11 11

Crucial: Your school or college nurse and the school and college nursing service can provide 1:1 support, advice, somewhere to chat and signposting to other services. They are available all year round on 01865 904225.

A teenage problem?

Depression is a serious illness for young people. In teenage years there are changes to the mind and body that make it harder to control emotions. It is also harder to concentrate on a positive future, and you are more impulsive, because the parts of the brain that deal with future planning develop later. This means young people are more at risk from serious reactions to being depressed like self-harm and suicide.

If you get so unhappy that you are starting to have desperate, panicked or confused thoughts, then you need to get help right away. Tell an adult you trust, a friend, or your school health nurse.

If you need to talk to a helpline, all these can help:

  • Papyrus Mon-Fri: 10am-10pm, weekends: 2pm-10pm & bank holidays: 2pm-5pm Hopeline tel: 0800 068 41 41 text 07786 209 697 email   
  • Childline 24/7 0800 1111 
  • Young Minds 9.30 to 4.00pm, Mon- Fri Parents helpline: 0808 802 5544 
  • CALM 7 days a week, 5pm to midnight  0800 58 58 58 

You may also find it helpful to look at the Self Harm Page or visit Harmless, an organisation which supports people who self harm and their friends and family.

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