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Editor’s Note: May 7 marks the 10th annual National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some 9 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2012, and suicide was the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds in 2011.
NAM spoke with a 24-year-old journalism student at a community college in Los Angeles who said she wishes that her depression had been addressed when she was younger. She prefers not to use her real name because she worries that if future potential employers know that she’s been diagnosed with depression, it could affect her ability to get a job.
I don’t know if I was born with depression. I don’t know if that’s a real thing that can happen. But problems like this seem to run in my family. My grandmother has anxiety issues, and my dad has always seemed depressed, even though he never talks about it. Nobody in my family wants to talk about that kind of thing.
I’ve just never felt right. I feel like I go through highs and lows more than normal people. Well, no, I’m normal – I shouldn’t criticize myself. But I’ve always known that something was wrong, and I couldn’t talk to my family about it. I’m close with my family but I still felt like they would be judgmental, and I also wouldn’t want to burden them with my problems.
When I turned 18 and could start going to the doctor without telling my parents, the first thing I did was make an appointment to talk about how I was feeling – that I was anxious and unhappy and I didn’t understand why. That throughout my whole life, I’ve gone through long periods of time when I didn’t want to do anything and didn’t want to be around people. At that point I wasn’t familiar with what “depression” is, and I didn’t feel like I could ask anybody.
My doctor prescribed antidepressants. I decided to tell my dad, and I found out something I’d never known about myself – my dad told me that when I was really young, around 5 years old, my pediatrician had thought I was depressed and wanted to try giving me medication. My parents refused; they didn’t want to drug me when I was so young.
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