DEPRESSION: ON THE EDGE
This In the Mix special was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
In the Mix Host Andrea: Hi, Iím Andrea. Todayís showís on depression. Iím here at the Third Eye Blind concert and recently the band wrote a song about suicide.
Stephan: This is probably the most depressing song we know how to play but it makes us feel good we can play it. This is a song for you. This is called "Jumper." [start of song]
Andrea: Weíre going to talk to them a little bit later and hear the song live in concert. Weíre also visiting Pierre, South Dakota, a small town struggling with an outbreak of teen suicide. Weíre going to find out how theyíre coping and what theyíre doing to tackle depression before it goes too far. Today weíre going to show you the difference between everyday blues and when you need to get help.
Teen: When youíre depressed, from what Iíve learned, you feel hopeless, like nothing can help you.
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
Andrea: In Pierre, we talk with some teens about the pressures that lead to depression and how to deal with it.
Teen: Pierreís a small town. Everybody knows everybody else.
Teen: Growing up in Pierre is awesome. I love it. Itís been a great place to grow up. Itís been safe.
Teen: The minute you get out, itís just flat open nothing.
Teen: Itís a really beautiful town, but thereís not much to do. If you have stuff to do, itís almost the same thing every single day.
Teen: I donít think that thereís nothing to do here. I think that you just have to try to find something that you like, find your friends, hang out. Tonight weíre going to play softball.
Meet up at the Zesto and go from there. School life is, I think, just like anybody elseís. I think itís very, very typical.
Teen: The pressure to fit in in this high school, itís there. You want to fit it in. You want to be popular. You want to beóyou want to be liked. What teen today doesnít?
Teen: I mean, you donít want to just exclude yourself to one group. You want to be with all groups but itís kind of hard because maybe this one group doesnít like this other group, you know.
Teen: Itís really hard to find a balance. Like with your friends and if you have a boyfriend.
Teen: I had a time where all of my friends had boyfriends or other friends and they werenít calling me at that time. And I just started getting sadder and you know worse and worse. Friends will try and pressure you to do a lot of things that may go against your values.
Teen: I think peer pressure is good. I thinkóI really do. I really believe that pressure is good and itís how you deal with that pressure that makes you an individual thatís going to either have character and have problems.
Teen: I just feel like sometimes I canít do anything right. Like I think that a lot of it comes from girlfriend.
Teen: Getting rejected by a girl whoóthatís really upsetting sometimes.
Teen: I think to a certain extent thereís a point where a guy cannot show, you know, any emotion.
Teen: I find it a lot easier to cry in front of girls just because [laughter] you know you cry in front of a guy, theyíll be, ĎYeh, wussie boy, you crying over that." Thereís a thin line between being upset and depressed.
Teen: I think sometimes you may not even know that youíre depressed. Itís just somethingóitís just a phase that youíre going through and you think, ĎOh, this will be over by morning.í
Teen: My parents were striving me to do a million and one things at one time. I got really stressed out and I was really down and every time Iíd go home after school, Iíd like lock myself in my room and listen to music and just cry.
Teen: No matter how good you do, you know, they alwaysóand itís good to be pushed but theyíre always looking for so much more.
Teen: Endless pushing, thatís not good.
Teen: My dad been through two divorces now and thatís put a lot of stress on my life going through high school.
Teen: When you take out your stress in a physical manner, it doesnít bother you any more.
Teen: Iím going out on bike riding and that gives me time to think about things, you know, and get out in the fresh air and it clears you mind a little bit more.
Teen: I didnít make the volleyball team this year. Well, I put all my efforts into my ballet and I tried doing something different. I took the attention off what wasówhat had gone wrong in my life and put it onto something that I could improve.
Teen: Iíve been writing in a notebook and that seems to really help get things out of my system.
Teen: When Iím upset, itís like the only thing I can think about and it just kind of drives you worse and worse, until you know, you actually find someone to talk to that really understands where youíre coming from.
Teen: Yeh, thereís going to be ups and downs in everyoneís life, no matter where you live, no matter where you grow up, no matter what kind of family you come from.
Teen: I think everybody feels depressed. I couldnít imagine anyone not experiencing that emotion.
Teen: Itís when you canít get out of that and youíre having bad days every day that you need to get help.
[back to concert]
Andrea: Hey, guys, weíre here with Third Eye Blind backstage at their concert. What kind of things get you guys down? What kind of things make you not feel, you know, on top of the world?
Kevin: The songs are about the moods that weíre in and I know that when Iím playing, playing the guitar Iím expressing the mood that Iím in, the anxiety, the pressure or joy. It could be any of those. Itís kind of a release for me.
Band Member: Bad shows make me depressed. I get depressed at a bad show. But also sometimes I can be in a bad mood and then Iíll do a show and Iíll feel much better.
Arion: I really, I donít get depressed very often. I tryóI work really hard at being happy. Itís important to me to just be happy and that keeps me feeling healthy, too. I listen to a lot of music and play music. Thatís really a major force in keeping me happy and sane. I listen to music so much every day. Itís really important to me.
Andrea: You know there are a couple of things that can cure the everyday blues, exercise, for example and thereís also food. If you cut out things like red meat, salt, caffeine, alcohol in excess, you might find that you mood actually improves. Also, if youíre dieting, you may be not allowing yourself to get essential things that you need for energy and youíre not going to be in a good mood.
Kevin: But if youíre really depressed and find that you donít enjoy things you used to and you canítóyou have trouble sleeping or you just canít wake up in the morning, just donít buy into the stigma of having the possibility of having a mental illness. Go in and get help.
Kevin: In my early twenties, I went through a period where I was justófelt like I was on my deathbed and I went through practically every antidepressant there was on the market. So I know what it feels like to, you know, to wake up and just want to go right back to bed. Anyone thatís feeling that way, Iím down with you and you just got to have faith that in time it will end, you know.
WHEN IT GETS SERIOUS
Andrea: When it comes to depression, you need to seek help. We talked to a psychologist to get some of the facts and talked to some young people who are getting help themselves.
Paul: Iíve been so depressed I couldnít get up and leave the house. The first time I really noticed I was in depression was during eighth grade after my parentsí divorce. I thought that I would never be happy again.
Teen: My depression started approximately almost three, three and a half years ago, when my father died. I felt really angry, you know, itís like, ĎHow dare you die on me now!í
Shiloh: I was a real happy little girl. I used to play outside. I was a tomboy. When I started seventh grade, it was probably the time I noticed I was being more depressed because I was insecure about myself. I tried to fit in with the other people who I thought were more popular, or who I thought were cooler than others. That helped me get a lot deeper into depression because I wasnít my own person.
Teen: Anyone can feel depressed at one point in their life. Anyone can feel sad, but when youíre depressed, from what Iíve learned, you feel hopeless, like nothing can help you. Itís not like, ĎOkay, snap out of it. Now, itís time to move on.í You donít have that motivation anymore.
Belisa Vranich, Counselor: Thereís a very big difference between just feeling down and feeling blue and being clinically depressed. One of thing things is if you feel down, you know that you can pick yourself up. With depression, you canít do that.
Teen: I had a lot of migraines and insomnia. I would go to bed and it would be three or four in the morning and get up a couple of hours later. I didnít sleep a lot. I didnít eat a lot.
Teen: I was very lethargic. I was doing very poorly grade-wise. I failed English for the year.
Teen: I was very alone. I didnít have many friends. I didnít have a high self-esteem. I was never active in any school activities.
Vranich: You need to seek help when the symptoms get so bad that theyíre affecting the way you function in a daily way.
Teen: I wasnít really aware of what was happening outside, in the outside world. I was feeling very lonely, like no one was there.
Teen: When I get sad, Iíd sit and Iíd go into myself. Itís very hard to just communicate with people.
Teen: Drinking and using drugs is a lot of what I used to get a way my depression and hide it and make it look like I was having fun. I was rebelling because I wanted attention. I wanted my family to notice that I was depressed and that I needed help. I needed them to tell me that they loved me and tell me that they cared about me. I used to sit in my room and just cry or write stories. I wrote my obituary a couple of times.
Teen: I told a friend I wanted to die and she told my teacher and then from there my teacher sent me to the office and they sat down and talked to me.
Vranich: Thereís a very big difference between thinking about death and thinking about afterlife, and having questions about it, and actually thinking about wanting to hurt yourself or wanting to end your life. That is one of the symptoms of depression. It is a very serious symptom of depression and you should look for help immediately.
Teen: I was diagnosed with manic depression. You feel down one moment, crying, and maybe a couple of hours later, everythingís fine. All of a sudden, youíre excited. You really donít know what youíre excited about. Itís, itís not really real. Youíre really covering up what you really feel.
Vranich: Sometimes when people have depression it is that they have a chemical imbalance. The chemicals in the body change and thatís where the imbalance comes in. You can develop a chemical imbalance and you can be born with one.
Teen: Iíve been on many medications. It has helped meÖhelp control my moods.
Vranich: What the medication will do, the antidepressants will do is take the very lows off of your depression, stop you feeling suicidal, help you sleep better, get you back on track. It will not stop you from being sad if something sad happens and it definitely wonít make you feel high or happy all the time. Antidepressants should always be used in combination with therapy.
Teen: I was diagnosed with depression. I was in the hospital. People would make fun of me, or you know say that sheís crazy or something.
Vranich: People forget that itís a medical condition and part of the reason that itís difficult is because you canít see it. Depression is neither a weaknessóitís not something you can be blamed foróitís also not something you can fix on your own. You need to find an adult that you trust and let them know that you want help and let you know how youíre feeling. This can be a school counselor. It can be a teacher, your parent.
Teen: I figured that I should look into something like for a support group or something like, so we checked it out and decided to join.
Teen: I go to counseling now. Itís an easy way to get your feelings out without having to be embarrassed. Cause if the person that you have confidence in and you can tell them whatever you want and it will be confidential between you and that other person.
Vranich: Eighty percent of people that seek treatment feel better. The treatment is successful. They feel much better. The symptoms either go away completely or are reduced a significant amount.
Teen: Iíve learned that depression is very common amongst teenagers, preteens and that itís curable if you want to cure it.
Teen: I got to realize that people did care for me and that I had value, that I had self worth for myself after a while and I had confidence.
Teen: Iíve grown a lot with learning how to fight my depression, learning how to take control over it and not letting it control me.
SUICIDE: THE ONLY IRREVERSIBLE CHOICE
Andrea: If depression is left untreated, it may result in suicide, which is one of the leading causes of death among teenagers. Now, you guys wrote a song about suicide called "Jumper."
Stephen: This is probably the most depressing song we know how to play but it makes us feel good to play it. This is a song for you. This is called "Jumper." [band begins to sing "Jumper"]
Andrea: What made you write this song?
Stephen: Itís not just a song about some guy offing himself. Itís reallyóthe songs that we write, even though they deal with dark themes, thereís something much more redemptive about them. I think theyíreó"Jumper" is really about understanding. And everybody carries demons around and everybody carries some sort of or they carry some sort of scar around. The message of "Jumper" is just there comes a time where you just put the past away. The response we got to "Jumper" has been quite phenomenal. Weíve been like feel really good about being able to make some, some statement that is in some way redemptive.
Andrea: Suicide is preventable. Most people who are suicidal canít see alternatives to their problems.We visited Pierre, South Dakota, to see how teens are dealing with suicide in their community.
Teen: Since Iíve been in high school, thereís been four teen suicides.
Teen: I feel trapped in this town. I really do. You go to a different town and [they] say, ĎYeh, where are you from?í ĎPierre, South Dakota.í ĎOh, yeh, suicide town.í
Teen: Here in Pierre, weíve always been considered an innocent town. I donít want to seem naïve, but weíre very innocent. We have that small, small town goodness to us. And I think that for such a new problem as teen suicide, that was kind of an awakening, and I think a lot of people saw that as a loss of our innocence.
Teen: Every teenager in this town has in one way or another been affected by suicide. Whether theyíve lost a best friend or a boyfriend or, you know, a brother or sister, theyíve been affected by it.
Kelsey: My brother never showed any signs of depression. I mean, heíd get in fights with my dad and thatís about it. I mean, the signs that he showed werenít very strong. I was thirteen when he killed himself. Itís been two years. The year before he died, he started giving me clothes. Now I look back at it, I think it was a sign that, you know, somethingís wrong. Iím guessing that he couldnít, he felt like he couldnítí talk to anybody, but if he really wanted to, he probably would have tried. I just donít think he tried hard enough.
I was really scared to go into the first day of school, having everybody look at me, wondering, ĎHey, look, thatís the girl whose brother committed suicide this past summer.í I got really bad depression. I did not like the way I looked. I did not like the way I dressed. I was caught drinking and got grounded for a month. About a week later after that, I was caught smoking and grounded for another month and thatís when I ODíd. I did not want to die. I never, I never ever wanted to die. I think that the reason why, you know, part of the reason why I ODíd was because my brother had all the attention after he died and thinking, well, maybe, Iíd be able to do the same thing and get as much attention as he did.
Madelyn Gould, New York Psychiatric Institute: You will often see that after suicide the victimís get a lot of attention. Thatís nothing to be envious about but thatís not the attention that you want. For one, itís a very fleeting attention. Youíre forgotten. Not by the family, but after a while, theyíre not there to make the contributions to people and their community and to themselves.
Teen: One thing about Pierre is after the first person committed suicide, it kind of made it an option for other people to commit suicide. Like if they got depressed, theyíre like, ĎOh, well, that person did it, so maybe I can do that.í
Gould: Pierre, South Dakota, has experienced a cluster of suicides. Across the U.S., there have been hundreds of suicide clusters and so there is nothing about Pierre, South Dakota, per se that makes it the "suicide town" or the "depression town."
Teen: After a while, it got to a point where youíd hear about it and really you wouldnít feel anything.
Teen: It doesnít affect us like it used to and how it should.
Teen: Itís just like another suicide, you know, another kid killed himself.
Gould: After one suicide, the likelihood that another suicide will occur is greater. It just is. We know that suicide contagion is real.
Teen: We have a problem but for the longest time I think the older population in this community really didnít want to admit that.
Teen: It wasnít talked about and I just didnít feel that it was working so I thought, you know, itís something that does need to be brought up.
Gould: You canít discern that there wonít another suicide. You have to do something about it by joining forces with school and hospitals and police.
Teen: Weíve had countless talks with the students in the school on how theyíre to deal and what to look for in their friends. And we just had a number of different ways of recognizing the problem.
Teacher: Today, weíre going to focus in on depression. So I want to introduce you to the Improv Group.
Improv Group Member: You came to this job with high recommendations from a lot of people in this house saying you would be a hard worker.
Improv Group Member: I just donít want our daughter going out with a senior.
Improv Group Member: I thought we were best friends, but anymore I guess I just donít know.
Improv Group Member: I thought we would do something this weekend, but now you just say, no, youíre going to hang with your freshmen friends. I donít think so.
Improv Group Member: Weíre giving every single kid in the high school and the junior high and maybe down to the elementary schools one of these cards. And it says that if you need help or you need, or you just have problems and you need to talk to somebody about it, you can go and give this card to a person you trust.
Teacher: What are the things you can do for each other?
Teen: Sit down and listen to him and, you know, hear their problems and try and help them with them.
Teen: Share your own stories with your friends because I think that makes your friends feel like theyíre not alone and then you can work it out together.
Teen: Watch for little things, the little differences that theyíre showing signs of they need to talk.
Teen: Reach out to them and ask them if they need help or even just invite them to do stuff, get them going again.
Teen: But if itís something you canít deal with, you need to tell somebody, you know, that would know how to take care of that kind of thing.
Gould: If you have problems at home, if youíre under stress, if youíre having alcohol problems, if youíre really overwhelmed by life and you can be, get help for it.
Kelsey: I started going to counseling after I ODíd and then about two months later our whole family has been going to work out the problems. And it works really well cause I think we solved a lot of things that needed to be solved a long time ago. I really do think that issues start at home with the families cause thatís who youíre growing up with, thatís how youíre going to act, thatís where you get all you stuff from. Now that I think about how I could be dead right now I regret even taking one pill.
Gould: Suicidal feelings are fleeting. You can feel a certain way today, tomorrow, even for a week, or two weeks and not feel that same way next month. You canít keep that to yourself. Talk to someone.
Teen: Iím not as depressed as I used to be. My grades have gone up. You know, I found a great guy. My friends, I have a lot of friends now.
Teen: I think that I understand the value of my life and the value of life to everybody more than most people and Iíve gained that from growing up around all the things I grew up around and learning it in treatment and just finding it within myself.
Teen: These days Iím feeling a lot better than I did. I still have my good days and my bad days, I should say. But everybody has their good days and their bad days, you know. I just learn how toóif thereís something bothering meóto talk to somebody, even if itís hard for me to talk, to talk to somebody, to write it down, at least get it out of my system.
Teen: When you think, ĎOh, Iím depressed now,í youíre going to get more depressed. And really in order to become less depressed, you have to think, think like, ĎI want to be happy. I want to be happy,í and just hang in there.
Andrea to band: Thank you so much for talking to me.
Band member: Thank you.
Andrea: Thank you! One of the most important things to remember is that thereís always someone to talk to, a guidance counselor, a teacher, a family doctor, or even a neighbor. Depression can be cured, but itís up to you to take the first step and reach out to someone. There are local hotlines you can call for help. You can find the number in the blue pages of your phone book, or you can call these national hotlines.
You can call Covenant House at 1-800-999-9999, or the Boys Town National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-448-3000, or the Childrenís Rights of America Youth Crisis Hotline at 1-800-442-4673. And if you have any questions or comments, you can write to us at In the Mix, 114 East 32nd Street, New York, New York 10016, or e-mail us and check out our website at www.pbs.org.
Andrea: Thatís all the time we have so letís take a look at some more Third Eye Blind.
This In the Mix special is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
[end of program]
The segments in Pierre, North Dakota were shot at Riggs High School, and with the Yellow Ribbon Campaign Improv Troupe.
The Third Eye Blind live concert was shot at the Hammerstein Theater in New York City on July 15, 1998.