Youth Depression

Reporter: Mark Gibson

Steven: "In July I took an overdose.. and that's pretty much how my family realised I had depression."

Jane: "My child, my beautiful boy, what's he doing, trying to take his life, I just, we just couldn't comprehend."

Steven: "It can just happen to anyone at any time really and it happened to me."

He's just 14, but Steven has already spent two years as a virtual prisoner to mental illness. An intelligent, articulate teenager, who suffers chronic depression. Steven says "My depression gets worse at night time usually, so I'll often just go and sit in my bedroom and that's when I'm usually feeling really sad but then also in the mornings I wake up and I'll have no energy, that's usually because of the depression. A lot of feeling sad and it's hard to see the good things in life."

Jane says "We were just shocked, just because he's such a confident boy." Steven's mum Jane says one phone call from a school psychologist changed their lives. "She just said to me Jane I've got something terrible to tell you, I've got a message from a mother of a child at the school, your son tried to take his life last night."

Steven says "It was getting too hard to go to school and I was feeling really depressed, when I was at school that was the time when I was really really low." "Depression can actually happen at any age of life and in fact there are some very young primary school children who will get depressed." Child and adolescent psychiatrist, Brett McDermott, says depression in children is more common than you think. "It's about one in 20 or about 5% will have a depressive episode in the last 12 months so if you think of an average school class in primary school that's about 25, I mean every two of those classes will have a depressed student in them every year."

Steven says "Depression's not widely accepted by a lot of people and it really needs to be otherwise of people do have depression it's hard for them to speak out and talk about it." Too sick to go to school, Steven learns from home, sees a psychiatrist weekly and takes anti-depressant medication. He contacted Today Tonight, wanting to tell his story. "Mainly just to raise awareness of depression in adolescents and yeah just to let adolescents know that it's important if you're feeling depressed to speak out and that it's okay."

Brett McDermott says "The lived experience of depression is something that speaks to a lot of people and I think a lot of 14 year olds in Australia will be very happy that he's had the bravery to do this." Steven stopped eating, stayed in his room and becamse withdrawn. But his Mum says the warning signs were easy to miss. "I wouldn't have expected a 12 year old boy to be depressed and thinking of taking his life, that's shocking."

Brett McDermott says "If you have a lot of symptoms that last more than say two weeks to a month but also impair your life, you might go to your bedroom and not come out, you might stop going to school, stop seeing friends, stop enjoying the usual activities of life, when you get functional impairment you probably need care."

Jane says "Just try and keep in touch with your child, be as open as you can, how are you feeling, you know just sort of get to know your child especially I think males." Steven says "Even if I helped a few people that were feeling the same way as I was, even just go to their parents, contact a helpline or go see a psychologist, go to the school psychologist or's okay if you're feeling like that, the best thing is to get help."

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