Category Archives: depression and anxiety

Pass the Mashed Potatoes? Eating Disorders and the Holidays

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By Carolyn Schweitzer, Editorial Intern

Photo by Christina McCafferty, 18, Massachusetts

The holiday season, though “the most wonderful time of the year,” can also be the most stressful. As  a teen, besides end-of-the-semester schoolwork, there may also be trips to plan, cards to send, parties to attend, and presents to buy, not to mention the colder weather! Holidays can really take a toll on all of us, but this time of year can be especially difficult for those who struggle with eating disorders.

According to the Eating Recovery Center of Denver, Colorado, more than 11 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder. Major life events, such as leaving home for college, can cause those who are genetically predisposed to having eating disorders to develop them for the first time. In fact, the average age at which an eating disorder first develops is 19. The pressures of living away from home, class work, making new friends, and all around stress can trigger these unhealthy habits in some students. Approximately 10% of women in college are estimated to have an eating disorder.

Families and loved ones often don’t realize that their loved one has developed an eating disorder or may be at risk for one until they come home for the holidays. It’s important to be aware of how new college students are dealing with stress and of any possible problems that might have developed.

The Eating Recovery Center recently outlined five important warning signs that families and friends should keep in mind over winter break.

  1. Noticeable weight loss or weight gain since he or she entered college.
  2. Helping with the preparation of holiday meals but not eating them.
  3. Excessive exercise, even outdoors in poor winter weather conditions.
  4. Withdrawal from family and friends and avoidance of gatherings, even if he or she has not seen loved ones for months.
  5. Discussing college in a “stressed out” or obviously anxious manner or altogether avoiding conversations about school.

If you do notice any warning signs, set aside some time to talk to your friend or family member in a private place. Even if he or she denies any problems, be sure they know that you’re there for them. Showing someone with disordered eating that you care is important before, after, and during treatment. If someone does need professional help, be informed about the counseling services available on campus and nearby treatment programs that specialize in eating disorders. Asking for help is hard to do, but you can make it easier for them by simply being there.

During the holiday season, it’s easy to get wrapped up (pun intended!) in everything you have to do. But take some time out of your busy holiday schedule this year to check in with all of your friends and family. Let them know that you care. Keep in mind that early treatment is the best way to combat eating disorders and reach out now!

To learn more about eating disorders and what you can do to help, visit:

The National Eating Disorders Association:

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

Eating Recovery Center: http://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/

 

10 Ways for Youth to Address Teen Depression

With winter coming in quickly and holidays approaching, many of us start to feel a rush of holiday spirit and excitement: we may have family parties, school vacations, and a new year at the tip of our fingers. But not everyone shares in the season’s joy—December can also be a challenging time of loneliness, sadness, and despair for some of us.  And for teens, depression can be especially overwhelming.

Could someone you know, a family member, friend, or peer, be suffering from depression? Look for these symptoms and warning signs:

  • Sadness
  • Irritability/anger
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in sleeping/eating habits
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Lack of motivation
  • Thoughts of death/suicide

If you notice these signs, start by offering your support and look for ways you can help.  These tips may be useful.

Many celebrities and organizations have already stepped in to raise awareness and to find ways to support teens suffering from depression. From posting inspirational videos to taking pledges, big names like Ke$ha, Liv Tyler, and Demi Lovato have found ways to get involved. And you can too! Whether you know someone suffering from teen depression or not, Get Ur Good On has made a list of ten ways you can volunteer support and spread the message!

Check out Get Ur Good On’s list of 10 ways YOU can Get UR Good On for Teen Depression!

  1. Take the “It Gets Better” pledge and support LGBTQ youth. Make an even stronger commitment by recording an encouraging It Gets Better video like the ones from Ke$ha, Chris Colfer, Google Employees, and many more.
  2. Create a video about teen suicide and prevention. Upload to YouTube like Max Bennington and spread the word. Find information about depression and suicide on Half of Us and TeenScreen.
  3. To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a nonprofit working to help people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. Miley Cyrus, Liv Tyler,  and Boys Like Girls all support TWLOHA. Want to help too? Plan a penny drive, fashion show, or concert fundraiser and donate. Find more ways to support here.
  4. September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. On this day, share Facebook statuses and tweets with organizations peers can contact for counseling or help.
  5. Send positive and encouraging messages to friends. Be a support system for them; a little pick-me-up goes a long way!
  6. Brittany Snow, Demi Lovato, Victoria Justice, and Zendaya all know that Love is Louder than the pressure to be perfect. Take a “Love is Louder” picture and share on Twitter, or upload to GetUrGoodOn.org, Love is Louder’s Facebook page, or make it your profile picture!
  7. Speak out against bullying at school. Visit Teens Against Bullying for anti-bullying activities.
  8. Volunteer with the Trevor Project, an organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth. Help make survival kits, volunteer at an event, or join a board committee.
  9. Write the word “Love” on your forearm for one day and explain to people that you are raising awareness of teen depression and suicide. Share “love” pictures on Get Ur Good On as others have done. Make sure to use a washable marker!
  10. Start a mental health screening program at school. Find resources to develop the program on TeenScreen and get friends involved with the planning.

Source: http://tools.ysa.org/geturgoodon/10WaysTeen_SuicidePrevention_Depression.pdf

http://helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen.htm#sign_and_symptoms.  Reprinted with permission.

Know Your Rights on Cyberbullying

By Ashley Morris and Jessica Moore

As a recent spate of teen suicides so sadly proves, American teens are locked in a bullying crisis. Do you know your legal rights if you’re being bullied?

In a state with a strong law against bullying, such as Massachusetts, bullying includes, “acts or threats conducted by any device that transfers signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo-electronic or photo-optical system.” This means cyberbullying is a crime and is punishable by fines and imprisonment.  Bullypolice.org offers a full explanation of each state’s laws on bullying and indicates whether each state considers cyberbullying communication a criminal offense.

The National Crime Prevention Council notes that teens believe cyberbullies find their actions funny, don’t think their bullying is a big deal, and don’t worry about the consequences. With cyberbullying at the root of a spate of teen suicides, teens need to know that these points are disastrously false.

Cyberbullying: What you need to know

  • If someone is cyberbullying you on a social network or website, you have the right to report them. Wiredsafety.org provides a cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and harassment  report form to help stop online bullying.
  • Find out about your school’s legal authority.  It can be difficult for schools to discipline bullying that occurs off school grounds. StopCyberbullying.org suggests working to see if a provision can be added to your school’s policies if there are strict on-campus discipline laws.
  • Get familiar with IP addresses. An IP address is a number that identifies a computer on the internet and can be used to locate and prove an individual is bullying you. For more information on IP tracking, go to StopCyberbullying.org.
  • Saving evidence of your bully’s online threats is important; Internet Service Providers often discard online information that could incriminate an online perpetrator (such as online chat communication).

What you can do to delete cyberbullying

The National Crime Prevention Council offers these guidelines for preventing cyberbullying:

  • Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages
  • Tell friends to stop cyberbullying
  • Block communication with cyberbullies
  • Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult

In August, New York passed a new anti-bullying law, the Dignity for All Students Act, which will help the state move toward a school environment free of discrimination and bullying. This is a big step for New York, but there are still states that have little or no legal authority against bullying (Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota).  Every effort makes a difference, so make sure you write to your state and local senators to push for anti-bullying laws in these states.

Do your part to prevent bullying before this crisis becomes even more widespread.

Depression and Anxiety: How to Cope

By guest blogger Alexandra Comeau, 19

Depression. Anxiety. Mental illness. Words that make some people back away, some people judgmental, and a lot of people confused.

By seventh grade I knew that what was going on in my head was different than my friends. Depression came first for me. It caused exhaustion, sadness, zero motivation. Anxiety arrived a few years later; racing heart, fear of so many things, panic all the time.

Although my depression and anxiety are individual illnesses, I found them feeding off of each other. Finding out that each disorder was caused by similar things in my life and feelings that I had, taught me that I could also use the same coping skills (or ways to deal) for both. Being hospitalized and in outpatient treatment programs with other teens struggling with depression and anxiety helped me to work out which coping skills helped me to get well and stay well. I discovered really simple things that helped me to feel better, and I also found new things I was passionate about, like poetry, which helped me the most by allowing me a place to express what I was feeling.

Self-care is one of the most important coping skills I developed. In response to both depression and anxiety, I stopped taking care of myself physically. This lowered my self-esteem more, leading to deeper depression. In a treatment program, someone suggested I do something nice, like take a hot bath, to take care of myself.  I discovered that those simple things could really make a difference. Now if I notice I’m feeling bad and slipping, I paint my nails, do my hair, and try out new make-up to feel more positive and ready to participate in life.

A healthy amount of exercise is also a great way to cope. I chose walking as my exercise because it got me out of the house, and once I get back from a walk I feel great and motivated.

During my sophomore year of high school, I had an English teacher who absolutely loved poetry and had us spend a lot of class time on it. Up until this time, I thought I hated poetry, but it turns out I just hadn’t learned enough about it yet. I found free verse poetry that I loved and I started to write. I wrote every day — poems about how I was feeling, about how I wanted to feel, about anything. I shared my poetry with my teacher and he helped me to improve it and I later went on to put together a poetry book for my senior year project.

This experience with poetry brought me two helpful ways of coping.  I found a way to express myself and release my feelings positively, and I also found support at school.  Part of my support was a teacher I was comfortable with — someone I could go to when I needed help.

Positive coping skills are the most important tool for dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, because the disorders often come with very negative ways of coping. Finding good coping skills for myself allowed me to get to a much healthier place mentally, so that I can now work towards the goals I want to accomplish in my life.

A poem I wrote while dealing with my depression:

Teenage Years

Stepping through the puddling rain,

Hoping to kill the degrading shame.

Lies that swallow, dreams that die,

Hope once lied in teenage eyes.

Do you know what it is you want?

Do you have faith in what you’ve got?

A silver lining to what’s left.

Hold together, collapsing girl.

Not everyone has the ability to feel.