I don't exactly remember my guidelines in writing this, other than that it had to be double spaced and also more than 1500 and less than 2700 characters. I wrote it the first time and felt as if it were too impersonal, so this is my second draft that's basically ready for submission. Feedback is greatly appreciated :)
My best friend Cassidy first attempted suicide at thirteen. Her parents went into shock, claiming that they hadn't seen any signs and that she was a normal, happy child. During the months before I had noticed subtle changes though, she showed a lack of motivation for things that always excited her and that seemed more and more rapid. I only thought that we were getting older, that maybe she was maturing faster than I was. After the attempt they put her in therapy - and she hated it, she always told me that they made her feel handicapped. Like it was them who didn't know how to handle the situation and not her. A few years went by and she seemed to have put the entire ordeal behind her. Then at sixteen she tried again, and this time she succeeded.
So you see that as a teenager, I have not only seen but also felt first-hand the affects that depression can have not only on adults, but also on my friends and myself as well. Conversations between Cassidy's family over the years leading to the suicide and the year after caused me to wonder about depression. I thought in great consideration about the fact that I had my down days, but I knew that they were never anything drastic. It wasn't until after I started doing research though, that the relationship between substance abuse and depression really peaked my interest. I couldn't help myself from asking, is it increasing stress that is to blame? Or is it simply an inability to handle day-to-day events? These questions along with hope for understanding more about the loss of my best friend are the reason why I decided to write my essay on the relationship between depression and substance abuse in youths.
Children and teenagers today face an increasing amount of stress. Reports of suicide, attempted or successful, have become commonplace on the news and in our everyday lives, while only a few years ago it was something almost completely unheard of. In fact, suicide attempts by children under twelve have doubled in less than ten years, reports Scotland's Glasgow Herald. Older children are obviously no exception, allowing their problems to lead them down the same narrow path. They are the extreme end of a rising tide of psychiatric problems in youth that threatens to outstrip the services being put in place to help them.
With those ideas in mind, it isn't hard for us to understand how depression is the most frequently reported, and arguably the most important mental health problem for young people. According to The NSDUH report, "The youths who admitted to having experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, less than half received medical treatment for depression during that time. As a continuing thought, those youths were more than twice as likely to have used illicit drugs than their peers who had not." We see and understand the statistics of depression, but do we use the same view when we look at drug abuse?
Cassidy asked me once how I thought it would feel to be high. We had been shopping that day and afterward had went straight to my room for some girl talk. I remember only looking at her, thinking that she meant flying as in an airplane and not understanding any other motive for the word. She laughed at me, and I realize now how innocent she must have thought I was. It wasn't until only a few weeks ago that I even remembered that conversation and when I think back on it, I see that it should've been a sign to me. That I should have realized after the first attempt although years before, the point she was subconsciously trying to get across.
Once I honestly thought about it, it wasn't hard for me to understand how most people turn to drugs to escape the degree of life and depression that they may be facing. My brother faces serious depression and turns to alcohol in an attempt to take his mind off of his troubles, in other terms, self-medicating. What he and other people tend to misunderstand is that the method of relief they chose, while it does achieve a certain high or feeling of weightlessness, often has side affects of increased withdrawal from society and also an added desire to commit suicide. This, of course, throws them into a vicious cycle, bringing them only momentary relief and then increased problems and pressures as more and more of their problems are shunted to the side in order for them to get their next high.
At the alarming rate that this is happening, it made me wonder if there was anything we could do to raise awareness of this unfortunate situation. It seems there should be more training for parents and teachers alike so that they can recognize the signs of depression and the inability to cope with day-to-day stress at an early age. Implementing these ideas would help cut down on substance abuse as maybe these ones could be taught how to handle and cope with the pressures they are facing.
Society today has become hard, insensible, industrialized. Leading to an increased outlook of "Live for today because tomorrow may never happen." People have been reduced to only thinking of the fight to live. Teenagers easily see through the double standards of their elders. In a typical week they see them directly or indirectly covet, lie, steal, and put prestige and money before the needs of their family. These adults are the ones that we as children are supposed to look up to, the ones that we are supposed to view and use as role models. Is it honestly surprising that we're in the predicament that we are?
If you were to ask me how I would handle one of your problems, I would likely give you an answer that was different from the solution you had thought of on your own. Honestly, no matter how similar your personality may be to that of someone else, we all have very distinct ways of handling different things we face in life. When it comes to depression it's the same. For some, it seems that depression may be helped by simply talking to a family member or friend and learning to communicate about their problems. For others, however, the need for professional assistance may be needed. I've learned that whatever the case, the most important thing is that a depressed one receives help in some way before the situation turns drastic.
This takes me back to the questions I asked in my initial paragraph. Is it the increasing stress that is to blame? Fear is increasing-and not just because of economic uncertainties. With political and religious extremism on the rise, many people shudder at the horrors that tomorrow is likely to bring and there isn't an age limit on those worries. This is the world we're growing up in, and even though the responsibility we have as teenagers may be limited, we still see what we will end up throwing ourselves into. So while it wouldn't take the entire responsibility, it seems as if the escalating stress on youths would be one of the main contributors to the depth of depression that we see on a regular basis.
However, is depression caused merely by an inability to handle everyday events? Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes depression as a psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies. Keeping this definition in mind helps us to appreciate the complexity of depression and the different features of the neurotic disease. This includes the fact that coping with difficulty in thinking and concentration would make handling everyday events a difficult endeavor to say the least, even though it isn't what characterizes depression alone.
Despite the knowledge gained by the personal familiarity I have, I've never completely realized the seriousness of the illness. The research I did in preparation for this essay helped me to understand more fully the things that they feel and have to endure. Because of that, I've made it a personal goal to help raise awareness of how serious of an issue depression can be, and that it isn't 'All in their head' as some have perceived. Depression and substance abuse is a very serious problem that will not get better if we continue to ignore it. It's something that we have to put forth an effort to no only understand but also continue to work with.