Teenagers battle depression

Talking to a professional can make a difference

Trapped in the dark, searching for a light. Plagued by overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, it can be hard to find the motivation to live on to another day. Grappling with a mental illness such as depression can be a tremendous burden, especially when the pressures of school are added on top of that.

“I remember having suicidal thoughts when I was in grade school,” junior Cierra Burdg said. “I didn’t know exactly what it meant, but I knew that I wanted to disappear.”

Burdg struggled through her transition from elementary to high school. With the added pressures that come with the territory, she found it difficult to muster the energy to keep going. She finds that teens can be even more susceptible to depression.

According to suicide.org, about 20 percent of all teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood. Many do not receive treatment, either due to the fear of judgment from peers or simply not knowing how to get help.

“We’re all going through our own battles,” Burdg said.

In order to improve her mental health, she has taken advantage of resources that are available to her, such as speaking with a therapist at Healthy Start.

“I talk to her every week and she helps me out a lot,” Burdg said of her therapist. “Sometimes just talking to somebody about what’s going on inside of your head can make you feel better.”

Although Burdg still struggles with depression, she believes she has developed coping mechanisms that alleviate the pain.

“Some days are worse than others and I’m not always going to be able to use those exact coping methods, but I’m figuring it out,” Burdg said.

Junior Giselle Gonzales is all too familiar with the consequences of depression. She finds that she loses interest in activities she once enjoyed and doesn’t have energy to complete simple tasks.

At the age of 13, Gonzales began to experience the symptoms of depression. It wasn’t until this year, however, that she was diagnosed with the illness. She finds that people can be quick to judge, particularly her family.

“They don’t really believe I’m ill,” Gonzales said. “They think I’m just lazy.”

Gonzales encourages others to make an effort to understand a friend or relative who is suffering from a mental illness.

“Try to talk to them,” she said. “A conversation can help more than you think.”

Therapist Holly Agundes frequently meets with students who are mentally ill. Her primary goal is to discover the core issue affecting the student and work from there to understand how it impacts each factor of their life.

“It all ties together,” Agundes said. “If a student comes to me and says they’re failing all of their classes, in my mind, it’s not because they’re lazy or stupid. To me, it says there’s something going on that’s inhibiting them from being present.”

For students who may be hesitant to seek help as they are afraid of showing vulnerability, Agundes wants them to know they’re not alone.

“A lot of the students who are referred to me come in and feel insecure. They think there’s something wrong with them because they’ve been sent to me, but the reality is I see kids all day, every day,” she said. “If they’re feeling down and they’re having a problem, it’s important they know they’re not the only one.”

Agundes wishes for her office to be viewed as a safe place on campus where students can come and release any negative emotions they may be feeling.

“If you’re having a bad day, come talk to me,” she said. “It’s important to get it out so you don’t resort to other vices.”