Are they sad or depressed?

The difference between sadness and depression.



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In the current climate, the focus on mental health is allowing people to explore their feelings out loud for the first time. For too long, people have been ashamed to talk about their mental health, it is something that needs to be said out loud and acknowledged by so many. People need to talk about this more for a healthy mind and have a care for one another’s mental health like they would for any other health issue.

A downside of this hot topic is that it can confuse young minds. Just like you can self-diagnose a throat infection on Google, you can do the same if you read up on mental health. Professionals in education have been hitting a wall for some time now, where teenagers visit their support teams in school and say ‘I’m depressed’, ‘I have low self-esteem’, ‘My anxiety is really bad’. Now, these students are voicing how they feel, and this, in no way, should be stunted. However, sometimes young people can get carried away with the information they find, believe they have diagnosed their low moods and that they then need professional help.

Young people see more on self harming on tv…. see more about eating disorders…see depression and anxiety being spoken about freely and these young impressionable minds can sometimes latch on to something that can easily be turned around before it goes too far.


So the question for today is are they just sad or depressed?

Sadness is an emotion we all have at some point, at different levels, our lower moods should be respected. It becomes a concern when sadness because our normal baseline emotion.

Young people’s emotions are often on the up and down a great deal more than when we have matured, and young people often don’t want to show signs of sadness around their parents, which makes it harder to work out. They will often put a brave face on so that they aren’t questioned at home about what is wrong. They don’t want to pour their hearts out because they are feeling sad about a shitty Insta comment they’ve received, the person they are talking to may belittle it or even want to call up school which can lead to even more embarrassment.


The summer holidays can cause some of these areas to come to light as the young people are home more, they don’t have that 6 hour social interaction at school each day with their peers and teachers. The first few weeks of the holiday may need to be a time of just winding down, just like school staff need it, so do the students.


The following advise comes from Kat Nicholls adapted here for the parents / guardians of young people:

Sadness: Have they been feeling low for a few days, but then are quickly uplifted by their friends, family or an activity they enjoy and make them happy?

Depression: Have they been feeling low for a prolonged amount of time, maybe over two weeks? Their mood is no longer improved by friends or family, or activities that they used to enjoy?


Sadness: They feel down, but they can acknowledge that they will be ok after some time.

Depression: They have a a sense of hopelessness and can’t see a time where they won’t feel otherwise.


Sadness: They may be a little off their food or a little more comfort eating and they may struggle to sleep but overall food and sleeping habits stay the same.

Depression: Eating habits change to lose appetite or comfort eating everyday, sleeping habit changes could be not being able to sleep at all, or sleeping a great deal more.



If you think that it is depression and not just the feeling of sadness then you should refer the young person to their GP.

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