In any one year, in an average secondary school, 50 children in every 1000 will suffer from clinical depression; in a primary school with 400 children, eight children will be seriously depressed.
(How many of those could be allergic children failing to cope with their allergies?)
The figures come from the Royal College of Psychiatry which has just published this excellent book, So young, So sad, So listen to help parents, teachers, social workers, doctors and the children themselves. The book costs £7.50 direct from the college - click here.
Meanwhile, Philip Pullman’s forward says it all.
Depression: it hardly sounds like an illness, does it? It sounds like a mood. It sounds like something you could snap out of, with a bit of will power, like something you’d have to be feeble to give in to.
Our ancestors called it melancholia, or melancholy - but even melancholy sounds mild. It sounds like a sort of pleasing gentle sadness we might feel in autumn as we see the leaves turn brown and fall from the trees.
None of those names does it justice. There’s nothing mild or
gentle about what we call depression. In fact, at its worst it is a savage and merciless disease. Those of us who have felt its power dread it and shun it and know the way it can ravage and torment the mind and pursue us unrelentingly, while shutting off every avenue of escape, until there seems to be only one way out of the dark labyrinth we’re trapped in: and that way is suicide.
It’s a horrible thing to suffer from. It is bad enough for adults, although people who've had brushes with it can develop ways of coping when they sense it lurking nearby. Keeping busy helps, and taking exercise, and not spending too much time on our own or in gloomy surroundings.
But it can catch children in its grip too. Young people are just as susceptible, and it’s harder for them because they have nothing to
compare it with. And sometimes it strikes when they are going through adolescence, that most confusing and stressful period, when their bodies are changing rapidly, when they are beset by all kind of personal and social embarrassments, when sexual feelings are increasingly urgent, when relationships are under strain.
Sometimes the starting point of a bout of depression might be family problems that seem impossible to deal with - divorce, bereavement, or an abusive adult; but sometimes it strikes out of the blue, with hardly any apparent reason. Whatever the cause and wherever it comes from, if depression strikes when you are young it strikes very hard indeed.
Why it affects some and not others is still a mystery. The important thing to remember is that there are ways to deal with it. One of the most deadly tricks of this cunning and malevolent disease is to
persuade us that the hopeless despair we are suffering is our fault; that we are somehow to blame for the state that we are in and that we don't deserve to live and be happy.
This is where the informed help of other people - such as that contained in this book - can be so important. I’m glad that such a source of good advice and information exists..
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First Published in 2006
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