Self-harm or suicide attempts are attempts taken to ease the pain and to respond to extreme despair, symptoms often experienced by people with major depression. This story could be triggering to some, and reader’s discretion is advised. To understand the life events that contributed to this story, please read Chapter 1: “Crushed and Misunderstood” on the author’s arrival to Canada again at the age of 13.
Author: Katelyn (pseudo name)
Written in 2020
I didn’t dare open my eyes. I thought to myself, so this is it. I was covered with a blanket, and the ambulance worker beside me took my blood pressure. I was rushed to the hospital, the doctor shined a light into my pupils to check if I was still conscious. They attempted to wake me up by performing a series of physical stimulations. I was fully aware of my surroundings and felt the sharp pain that everything had caused me. The simple act of lifting my eyelids and letting light in was the last thing I could do. The nurse then forced open my mouth. One hand pinched my cheeks while the other hand pressed a tongue depressor so hard until I gagged. I felt blinded by the beaming surgical lights. “Wow, where did you learn that trick?” The nurse beside her was impressed.
That night, I had what would be the first of my many therapy sessions.
I anxiously waited in the room, until one man walked in with a calm and serene presence. He sat down and we stared at each other in silence.
“My dear, you look really, really sad.” The words gently echoed in the room. The last tight nerve that I was holding onto finally broke. All the emotions that I’d been bottling up over the last few months erupted at the same time. The sadness, the guilt, the shame, the hate and the hopelessness all turned into uncontrollable streams of tears. I lowered my head, shivering and sobbing, wanting to curl into a ball, unable to speak. Finally, I thought. The world that expects so much of me will have an answer. I can rest now.
When I woke up the next morning, I found myself alone on a hospital bed. I turned my head and saw sunlight for the first time in months. I quietly observed the room I was in. It was cleaned spotless, and a giant window overlooked me where I could see the busy hospital staff. The bathroom was covered in steel and metal, and so was the toilet. Just like in prison, I noted to myself. Even the mirror wasn’t made of glass but some sort of shiny reflective material – unbreakable, of course. I soon learned that even plastic knives were locked away. Every morning, we used spoons to spread jam on our toast.
Over my week-long stay, I had countless appointments with psychologists and psychiatrists.
“You have depression. Major depressive disorder, to be more exact,” Dr. Elizabeth said. This was not the first time I’d heard the term, though it was the first time I’d been diagnosed with it.
I learned that my school was wrong, and that I’d been suffering from depression for a long time.
“Don’t worry, depression is treatable,” Dr. Elizabeth assured me. The psychiatrists then prescribed me SSRIs, a type of antidepressant, though to this day I have yet to find one that works for me.
Experiences of being discriminated and marginalized can cause intense emotional pain for children. In a state of major depression, children sometimes resort to self-harm or suicide to ease or end the emotional pain. According to WHO (2020), Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds (1). This type of behavior is sometimes hidden. Therefore, it is important to recognize symptoms of depression and seek professional help. If the child resents going to school, becomes irritable, depressed, loses interest in the things they usually like, changes in appetite, experiences sleep problems or significant fatigue, these symptoms may be related to depression.
Although Katelyn has not found the right mix of medication, it’s worth being noted that many do respond to anti-depressants, which gives patients the space and energy to work effectively on their fundamental underlying psychological problems, usually through counselling. According to WHO (2020), for major depression, Antidepressants can be an effective form of treatment for moderate-severe depression, however, they are not the first line of treatment in adolescents, among whom they should be used with extra caution (1).
1. World Health Organization, 2020, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
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