Depression is a serious problem for many teens at Miramonte. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 20 percent of teens in the United States will struggle with depression before adulthood. Everybody feels down at some point in their life, but some people are unable to escape the feeling. They are considered chronically depressed.
People with this condition have an imbalance of chemicals in their brain that makes them think more negatively than usual.
“Being depressed isn’t a weakness,” said Miramonte support counselor Danielle Jurow. “It’s chemical. People shouldn’t be ashamed for something they can’t help.”
Many people see it as a weakness anyway, and are reluctant to talk to anybody about their troubles. Two-thirds of chronically depressed people do not seek treatment.
“Counselors can help,” said Jurow. “These kids just need someone to talk to. I get a lot of students here who just want someone to listen to them.”
In a session, counselors usually start by helping the person realize when and how their depression started. Often it comes from high stress levels and feeling overwhelmed. The counselors can brainstorm ways to reduce stress or any other contributing factors.
“It sounds silly, but getting organized can reduce stress,” said Jurow. “Even just cleaning out your room and your school stuff can make you feel on top of things.”
Depression can come from other sources besides stress. It can also be passed down genetically.
“I know my mom and my grandma were depressed,” said an anonymous student. “And I am too, so sometimes it feels like I’ll never be able to get better if it’s in my genes.”
While depression isn’t a “curable” condition, it is possible to manage the symptoms, and most people manage to overcome the troubles.
“First thing I ask you when you’re depressed: Do you eat three meals a day?” said neuropsychologist, motivational speaker and comedian Matt Bellace, who came on Miramonte on Fri, Dec. 4. “Are they healthy meals? Do you exercise every day? If not, that’s what you’ve got to do first.”
Exercise and eating release dopamine in the brain, which makes people feel good.
Another way to fight depression is by taking medications that balance chemical levels in the brain and help people think more rationally.
“Medications are great for a lot of people,” said Jurow. “But often it is more effective to have a good support system: friends or family who listen and care for you. Good friends can definitely change a person’s life.”
Depression rates in America have been steadily rising for the past couple of years, especially in teens, with suicide rates rising simultaneously. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds.
“If a person comes into my office and tells me they are contemplating suicide I will talk to them first,” said Jurow. “But, if they pose any immediate danger to themselves, I call their parents to take them to the hospital where they can be monitored and protected.”
“Sometimes I think about suicide,” said another anonymous student. “I think it would be better for me and my family if I wasn’t there. But every time I feel like that, my friends notice and they help me work things out.”
“If you have a friend who you are worried about, talk to them first,” said Jurow. “Encourage them to talk to other people who can help, like parents or counselors.”
One of the Miramonte support counselors, either Jurow or John Parker is in the counseling office every day and they are always willing to talk with anybody.