Gemma used to wake up every morning and wonder if there was any point in getting out of bed and starting her day. On the surface, the 16-year-old seemed to have a great life. She had a supportive family, good grades, and many friends. But she began to feel “off” about a year ago.
She began to avoid social situations and had self-image issues. These feelings seemed to come out of the blue, and her parents took notice. Their otherwise vibrant, friendly daughter was now sullen, apathetic, and sad.
“At first we were afraid she may have become involved with drugs, because her behavior changed so quickly. But we had no evidence of that,” her mother said. “She began to cut herself and threatened to take her own life
numerous times. It was at that point that we knew she needed more help.”
Gemma was suffering from depression. Teen depression often makes problems seem overwhelming and the
associated pain unbearable. Suicide is an act of desperation and teen depression is often the root cause. It can strike anyone. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24. It was after a suicide attempt that Gemma decided that she did need help and sought it out herself.
“I was a typical teenager at high school,” Gemma said. “I was happy, just had to deal with the typical stuff that comes along, you know? But when that depression hit me, I felt like I was losing myself, and it got worse and worse as the time went on. After I attempted suicide, I also told my mom that I was cutting and she made an appointment with a doctor who diagnosed me with depression. It changed my view on my own situation.”
Gemma had a few appointments with the doctor and then was referred to Catholic Charities for counseling, where she participated in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for depressed adolescents, to help her make sense of her feelings. CBT for depressed adolescents is an evidenced- based practice, a highly effective type of therapy that focuses on how our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes effect our feelings and behavior. CBT can help make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. It is one of the most effective treatments for conditions where anxiety or depression is the main problem. It can be as effective as antidepressants for many types of depression. And, it helped Gemma.
“This time, I was eager to go to my appointments because I didn’t feel like such a freak, and it finally all made sense to me. I wasn’t alone,” Gemma said. “Asking for help saved my life, and I feel like a different person for it.”