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What is Depression

Reading time: 5-7 minutes

Contrary to what's sometimes believed, depression isn’t simply ‘being sad’. In fact, it can be difficult to explain what you’re feeling to other people, as you may not be sure yourself. It can also present itself differently depending on the person, so it can be tricky to find a concrete definition of what it feels like. 

For some, depression can be a low mood that prevents them from going about their day-to-day activities, like a persistent weight or drag on functioning, while for others it can come and go and have a range of impacts. Depression isn't always something that's visible to others and can be difficult to explain if friends or family don't see that side of things. Sometimes, people can convince others (and maybe even themselves) that they’re fine for years on end.

What’s for certain is that it’s not usually possible to suddenly “cheer up” when somebody tells you to.

What can it feel like? 

Whilst depression feels different for everyone, there are a few things that tend to come up for those who are experiencing it:

  • Low energy levels
  • No motivation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling tearful
  • Being more irritable than usual
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling numb or empty
  • Avoiding other people
  • Self-harming or suicidal thoughts

Feeling some of these things doesn’t automatically give you a diagnosis of depression. If they persist though and you’re wondering about a diagnosis, you may want to chat to your GP.

It’s also really important to bear in mind that if you’re experiencing any of the things on the list, it doesn’t mean that you’ll feel that way forever!

What might help?

Rather than viewing depression as a battle, it can be more helpful to work with your feelings, acknowledge them, and find ways to manage them. This is often more productive, less exhausting, and avoids you being hard on yourself for what you’re feeling.

  • Try not to feel bad for feeling bad. Feeling guilty for not being happy can make things worse, when actually it’s completely ok to feel rubbish at times. Sometimes we can end up trying to find a reason for being sad (or someone might insist there should be one), and if we can't find something it can cause us to feel frustrated or angry at our own feelings. It's OK to not be OK and it isn't something you need to justify feeling! The tips below may help these feelings, and you may find your own ways to manage difficult emotions.
  • Talk about it! Whatever you’re feeling, you don’t have to go through it alone. Talk to anyone you trust, whether that’s a friend, parent, carer, teacher, doctor, youth worker, or someone else entirely. There are also several groups at 42nd Street that you can join, where you can get to know other young people who may be experiencing similar things.
  • Connect with others. Try to spend time with family or friends, online or offline. Chatting in person with someone is even better, as it gives you the chance to tell people what you’re really feeling - not just what you think they want to hear. 
  • Anti-depressants. Some people take them, some people don’t. What works for one person might not work for someone else. If you do take anti-depressants, there’s usually a period of adjustment that involves working out what prescription and dosage is best for you. There may be side effects and things can feel a little worse at first, so it’s good to talk openly with the person who prescribed them about how you’re feeling. It can be a bit of a process to find the right one for you.
  • Try something new. It might not sound like it will help, but often it does... Give something a go, whether it’s a hobby, joining a club, learning a musical instrument, or finishing a new game – doing something different and improving your skills and knowledge is great.
  • Take notice of your surroundings. Stop and be curious about the world around you. Notice the colour of the clouds, the smell of the air, or the sound of your footsteps on the ground. This can take you out of your own head for a little while and is sometimes referred to as being ‘mindful’.
  • Do something for others. This could be as small as saying thank you to the stressed bus driver in the morning. Things like this can boost your positivity and allow you to connect more with others.
  • Be active. Try to get some exercise, whatever that might look like for you. Running, cycling, walking, dancing, or simply taking the stairs instead of the lift – moving your body can help to beat the blues.
  • Practicing ‘mindfulness’. Mindfulness is a meditation practice that’s focused around being aware of your feelings and senses without trying to judge them in any way. This can be really helpful if you dedicate some time to practicing it. Luckily, there are now dozens of apps like Headspace which are devoted to mindfulness. It may not be for everyone, but it’s worth giving it a try!

Where to go for more support 

Although it might be scary, there are lots of places you can turn to for support and help is always available.

Seek support from 42nd Street. We provide a number of face-to-face services, all of which offer something slightly different depending on what you want to get out of the support. If you want to chat to someone online via text, you can register for ongoing online support with one of our workers via our online support portal. We also hold weekly drop-in sessions so that you can speak with a worker without an appointment.

Overall, though, every service provides you with someone who will listen, acknowledge your feelings, and work with you to develop ways to manage your emotions. You can read about our services here.

  • The Dealing with Depression and Anxiety Group at 42nd Street gives you the opportunity to meet other young people and talk about how you’re feeling. The group looks at the issues of depression and anxiety and explores ways in which you can support yourself through challenging times. You can email for more information on joining.
  • Call a helpline. If things are getting on top of you, there are several helplines that you can call to chat to someone about how you’re feeling or ask any questions that you might have. You can find a list of helplines and links to other resources here.
  • Please remember that if you’re ever feeling desperate or think that you might hurt yourself, you can walk into any A+E for immediate support.

By: Ruby Guyler 

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