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"I'm feeling blue" We've all said it and sometimes with good cause.

The reason might be that a relationship has broken down or that we have failed an exam. We might have had our hopes of a new job dashed. Sometimes we can't even find a reason for it. Yet somehow, human nature being what it is, we've picked up the pieces and gone on with our lives.

Depression, though, is when we can't beat those blues. Depression is when we wake up in the morning and wish we hadn't. Depression is more than the natural response to sadness. When you suffer from depression your mood changes and everything around you is as dull as the bleakest winter day.. Yet if asked why we feel this way, most of us will not have an answer. Millions of people around the world know that depression is a serious affliction. It is one that cannot be easily shaken or forgotten. In fact, depressive illness is on the increase and the cost to our society is spiralling.

Ten percent of us will suffer from depression at some time in our lives. Serious depression affects people at any age or of any race, ethnic or economic group. In fact there are ten times more people suffering from depression than there were in 1945. Perhaps the most worrying statistic is that there are more young people than ever being struck down by serious depressive illness. So what causes depression and how can it be treated'.

Most of us will have either have experienced a form of depression or we will at least know someone who is suffering. By learning about depressive illness or mood swings we can at least begin to recognise the symptoms that signal its onset. By doing this we can begin to help ourselves or encourage others to seek help and treatment. First of all we have to acknowledge that depressive illness is a major problem. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Eighty percent of suicides are caused by untreated depression.

Someone who is clinically depressed displays very firm signals. Depression often causes sleep disturbance, anger and a lack of ability in concentration. It also may cause nervousness, headaches, nausea and often results in social withdrawal. Whatever the cause of the depression, those who are afflicted may well show significant weight loss or gain. They may show an increased desire to drink alcohol or use drugs. The one thing a depressed person may not be able to do is to evaluate the problem themselves. While 80% of those who are depressed can be treated, less than a third even begin to seek that help. The one thing that someone in this position is not able to do, is to pull themselves together or simply snap out of it.

In dealing with the question why so many more young people are suffering from depression we have to look around our society. Unfortunately we often see a world that seems unjust and unfair. We live in a society that is, by turns, often dangerous and fiercely competitive. Many experts who deal with those of any age who are depressed, look first for a direct root cause. This may be a problem that the individual has yet to deal with. It may be something as obvious as debt or perhaps the loss of a loved one, or indeed a tragic event that has changed their lives irrevocably.

Depression such as this is perhaps easier to deal with than depression that seems to descend for no particular reason. Unfortunately direct causes cannot explain the high increase in the number of young people suffering today. It is even estimated that as many as five percent of children suffer from serious depression. To look at the root causes of depression amongst young people we have to look closely at the way we live our lives in the twenty-first century. We have to look at our expectations and the pressure that realising these causes in our minds and bodies.

Teen depression and stress is a very real problem. During these years we are changing both physically and emotionally at a terrifying rate. Hormones are kicking in, parents are asking and expecting answers to questions about your future. There is pressure to do well in school, both in the classroom and on the sports field. This pressure comes not only from parents but also from teachers and peers. Social pressure to conform, to participate and to acquire new and vital skills is intense. Little wonder then that we begin to feel the pressure of stress. When we are stressed our body reacts in different ways. We naturally produce more adrenaline to help us deal with these problems. Our bodies find it more and more difficult to adjust and relax. We begin to think and live in a permanently wired state.

The fact is that our society has changed rapidly over the last few decades.

Yet our basic needs as human beings remain pretty much constant as they have done for centuries. We need and crave companionship, healthy goals, responsibility

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