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depression in young people

This post is a direct reproduction of the Youth beyondblue Fact Sheet 1 Depression in Young People

Everyone feels sad or miserable sometimes. But when these feelings are with you most of the time, you stop enjoying life and lose interest in things you used to like doing, you may have depression. The good news is that getting the right type of help, and getting it early, can make it much easier for you get back on track and deal with depression.

What is depression and who can get it?

Depression is more than just feeling upset or sad. It’s a serious illness that leaves you feeling down most of the time and finding it hard to cope from day to day.

Around 160,000 young people aged 16-24 years live with depression[1], so it’s a common illness. Girls are more likely than boys to get depression, but boys often find it harder to talk about their feelings and get help.

What causes depression?

It’s not easy to say exactly what causes depression – it’s different for each person. Sometimes a difficult time in your life can set off depression and sometimes it’s caused by combinations of things that build up over time. Sometimes, there is no obvious cause at all.

A difficult experience, such as the loss of someone close to you, may lead to depression. Or it might make you more likely to have depression if other things go wrong when you’re older. Other negative things – like being abused or bullied, feeling that you are doing badly at work or school, or having bad experiences with your family (especially when you were young) – can all increase your chance of getting depression.

If one, or both, of your parents have depression, your chance of also having depression is higher, especially if you are a girl. At the same time, if you have a family history of depression, that doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily experience depression too.

Regardless of what causes depression, it’s a real illness. If you have depression, you need treatment and a plan to help you recover.

Is it depression?

You may be experiencing depression if for more than two weeks you:

  • have felt sad, down or miserable, or irritable most of the time
  • have lost interest or enjoyment in nearly all of your usual activities.

You might also be:

  • not doing so well at work, school or university and/or
  • experiencing changes in your relationships with family and friends.

If this applies to you, and you also have four or more of the following symptoms, you may have depression.

  • you have lost or gained lots of weight
  • you feel restless, agitated or slowed down
  • you have lost a lot of energy and feel tired all the time
  • you find it difficult to concentrate or make up your mind
  • you feel worthless or guilty
  • you feel that life is not worth living.

Taking action

Depression is just like any other illness – you need ways to get through it and stop it happening again later on. Some people think that it’s weak to admit that they’re going through a tough time. But if you have depression, you can’t just ’snap out of it’ or ‘pull yourself together’. Keeping it to yourself only makes things worse. Start by talking to someone you trust – maybe a parent, teacher, school counsellor, family member or friend.

Seeing a General Practitioner (GP) is a good start when you’re after help and information. A doctor can help you work out if what you are feeling is depression and help you to plan how to get through it. This may involve organising talking (psychological) therapy, to help you to change the negative thinking that comes with depression or deal with any hassles you may be having with family and friends. The doctor may also talk to you about other ways to tackle depression, such as stress management and tips on how to improve your sleep patterns.

For some people, the doctor may think that an antidepressant is also necessary, but only if the depression is severe or it isn’t improving with other treatments.

There are many things that can help you recover. Even if you don’t feel like it, it’s important to stay active and plan what you’re going to do each day. These can be little things, like going to the movies, talking to a friend or completing part of an assignment. Try to include things that you enjoy in your daily plan. At first, you may not enjoy them as much as you did before, but if you keep active, with time you’ll probably like them again. It’s also important to stay physically active, eat healthily and get plenty of sleep. Try not to drink or take drugs – ‘blocking out’ how you’re feeling usually only makes the problem worse.

Overcoming depression can take time, especially if it has been around for a while and become part of your way of life.

Key points to remember

The following things can help to stop you from getting depressed and help you stay healthy if you are depressed:

  • talk about your feelings and emotions
  • spend time and stay connected with people you like and trust
  • if you think you are depressed, take action early
  • eat a healthy and varied diet
  • stay physically active
  • take time out to do something you enjoy
  • don’t stress (or don’t stress too much)
  • get enough sleep
  • avoid drinking alcohol or taking drugs
  • remember that some days will be better than others.

Where to get help

Whether it’s you or someone else that needs help, you could try talking to a trusted family member, friend, doctor or counsellor. You can also speak to trained counsellors by phoning these numbers:

  • Lifeline – 13 11 14 is a 24-hour telephone counselling service (cost of a local call)
  • Kids Help Line – 1800 55 1800 (free call).

Information and support is also available from these websites

The websites below can help you to find health services in your area. They list services that are either free of charge or low cost:

People who are depressed may be at risk of suicide, and if so they need urgent help. Consult a doctor, the emergency department of your local hospital or a mental health professional (like a psychologist or psychiatrist).


  1. [1] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008). 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results (4326.0). Canberra: ABS
  2. Fleming GF (2007) The mental health of adolescents. Assessment and management. Aust Family Physician 36(8): 588-93.
  3. Great Ormond Street Hospital, London – www.childrenfirst.nhs.uk
  4. headspace (National Youth Mental Health Foundation) – www.headspace.org.au
  5. Reach Out! – www.reachout.com.au

This post is a direct reproduction of the Youth beyondblue Fact Sheet 1 Depression in Young People

Tab and post image by Jesse Therrien at stock.xchng

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