1. It speaks in small ways. Sometimes so silently you can hardly hear it.
In adolescents, the warning signs are often subtle: maybe different clothes, a change in writing style, shyness, a shift into being quieter, not raising a hand, acting disinterested or distant. Sometimes it’s the way someone looks at you, with their head low and their eyes distracted. You can often tell in someone’s eyes—they don’t look at you, but through you.
2. It grabs hold of whomever it wants.
There is no age group, no certain person who is more vulnerable than another. It doesn’t matter if you are twelve or nineteen, a sixth grader or an almost-graduated senior, the feelings come and they pull you down.
3. It is not something that can be ignored or dismissed as something a person will ‘get over.’
Depression is very real, even in teenagers. It is real to that person struggling, and to the people around that person who care and love him/her. The feelings are strong, they are debilitating, they are terrifying and mind-altering and cannot be simply pushed away under the excuse of ‘it will pass,’ or ‘they will be fine’ or ‘they are too young to feel this way’. No matter the person’s background or age or situation or stress level, these feelings needs to be addressed and this person needs professional/medical attention.
4. Someone’s true, raw emotions are often conveyed through written words.
There is something powerful in written words. Because they are not spoken aloud, they can often carry heavy truths. Sometimes people are willing to go deeper, to be more vulnerable, to be unafraid in their writing—this is important to pay attention to and to take seriously. These words are the passage into someone’s deepest, most complex inner self. And if you are trusted enough to see that inside part, do your best to keep it safe, and to save it.
5. There is not a ‘quick fix’ or easy solution.
And this sucks. Healing will take time and effort and patience and professional help, but all of this is worth it. And all of this is necessary for that person’s wellbeing and life. If you are watching this person struggle from the outside, do your best to support the process and understand that this isn’t a common cold, or something one can simply be given something to ‘get better’. Love with patience and understanding. Love with an open, non-judgmental heart as both a teacher and a mentor.
6. Everyone’s mind is complex and different.
Depression alters the mind, the way someone thinks and reacts and sees the world. In younger adults and children, this can be especially scary because they are still developing their world view, still trying to understand life and who they are. But everyone’s mind is different, and in someone struggling and recovering from depression, it is important to understand that not everyone will handle situations and thoughts the same. People see the world from their own lens, and that’s okay. What is important is loving and helping that person battle those demons and keep fighting, every single day.