Category Archives: Depression
As I walk around each day I feel a sense of hopelessness. It’s that same pinch of hopelessness in my heart from my parents’ divorce over a decade ago and I wonder if true love can last. It’s the deep and steadfast hopelessness that arises each time I remember that my brother is living on the streets and getting high on drugs every day.
I go to class and put on a close to perfect face, but inside I am just waiting for the phone call to hear that my brother has overdosed, and this time it’s fatal. If that day were to ever come, I would bake chocolate chip cookies for him one last time and put them right by his grave, along with a stack of baseball cards.
I try to talk to people about my feelings, but people just say, “I am sorry,” and they think it will get better.
Well I am tired of that answer! I am tired of feeling stuck and I am just waiting for this big piece of my life to fade away. If you have family or friends dealing with addiction to drugs or alcohol, I know you can relate.
So, I am here to encourage you…right?
I don’t have perfect little things to say and I don’t have the answers – if I did, I would take my own advice. But, what I do know is that you should find just one person you can talk to, such as an aunt, grandma, teacher, tutor, someone at Youth Outreach, or a friend. Even press into faith if you believe. I would encourage you find someone who will just listen and be there. And not say, “I’m sorry.” In my eyes, to say “I am sorry,” is for little things, like, “I’m sorry you missed class today because the teacher did something wild!” If you can’t find someone, then write. Write a page to whoever in your life is abusing drugs or alcohol. Then write clearly what you would say to them. I know this might sound silly, but trust me – it helps. After you write this letter, read it out loud and know that it is okay to cry! Next, take a thick black pen and draw over the things that really upset you. After, tear it up, go workout, and just allow yourself to feel what you feel.
Another helpful coping method is to find something that you love to do: cook, journal, maybe clean, or play music. What I have found important is to keep yourself busy in a healthy way. One of the things that I like to do is write poetry. Poems can take on many forms, so there are no rules and there is no pressure. It’s very therapeutic. Here is piece I wrote that reflects on hopelessness in a hopeful way.
It has its perks and it rocks my boat. I swallow my words to not say a thing to anyone about anything, so I will stay on the path of rowing
I sit on a boat and I look at how calm the water is on top. Do I dare look below to see all the hurt that I have seen
Would I be able to look back up
Why is it so hard for me to keep my mouth to myself
I start to think about things that I could do to maybe have control for once
I glance at the idea of what I could breathe in and then I remember all the people around me that are at the bottom of the ocean because of taking that first dirty creation
They have no way of swimming up because every time they try and take a breath it’s filled with more dirty water and they can’t float up
The question becomes how could I save the people in my life that are treating their bodies as a miserable disguise
I wonder if these addictions will fly away
A family is by a simple definition to be healthy and to love
Is the definition for people that are surrounded in dirty water to just breathe in
I can’t imagine becoming one of them
I see how their life will never go back to being who they once were
If that was the case, it would be broken hearts and deep desires to let anything in
Do I have hope
I want to believe that I do
I can jump in with a lifejacket
I can swim with goggles and make eye contact with them
I can keep breathing underwater and wave them to come up
Then, when I have no more air I can come back up
My lifejacket is God
and the people around me
They are holding me so tight that nothing is stopping me
I know that God will never leave me so my security is solid
But how do I keep my own dignity from hurting the people that are a part of me
Life is a journey and no one can say life is easy
It they do, they are either blind or life is blinding them
So, I say to you dear people that are living a life full of life
Don’t think that you can’t make a change, a difference, or have a new way at looking at life
Trust that you have the boat with lifejackets and that you can steer in the direction you choose
You will always have the people that are breathing in dirty water
a part of you
But you and whoever is not a part of the dirty water will be in your boat
So, look up and see the leaves changing
Have hope that you are hope
Know that you are
Let me tell you some statistics so you understand the severity of youth homelessness in America.
- approximately 50,000 young people in the U.S. sleep on the streets for 6 months or more
- estimated 550,000 unaccompanied youth are homeless longer than one week
- 39% of the entire homeless population is under 18
- 1 in 7 young people will run away from home
- the average age a teen becomes homeless is 14 years
- teens 12-17 are more likely to become homeless than adults
- 50% of youth who are homeless said their parents either told them to leave, or knew that they were leaving and didn’t care
When we talk about homeless youth, we’re talking about young people age 24 and under, although most of them are about 14-17. A lot of kids become homeless when their families become homeless, but most of them are either kicked out or run away.
Youth run away or are homeless for several reasons. Sometimes it has something to with their involvement in the juvenile justice or child welfare systems. Many homeless kids were foster kids, but they aged out and were discharged with no housing or income support. Sometimes they are being physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused at home and they eventually decide to leave. Sometimes there is some kind of severe family conflict going on, whether their parents are addicts, or abuse each other in front of the kids, or something else that’s unhealthy. Sometimes these youth are neglected or even abandoned by their parents.
Obviously, unaccompanied homeless youth are much more likely to get mixed up in bad things than other kids. Their experiences are also different than those of homeless kids who live with their families. Although those kids still have some tremendous issues and things to deal with, at least they have family by their side; unaccompanied youth are all on their own.
These kids, on their own and on the streets, are vulnerable to a range of awful, negative experiences, including exploitation and victimization. Because of their age and circumstances, they aren’t usually able to (legally) make enough money to meet their basic needs; so many, many homeless youth trade sex for money, clothing, and food. They also steal, and are much more likely to engage in criminal behavior and get involved in the juvenile justice system. They’re also often severely depressed, understandably so, and they drink and do drugs to mask the pain.
Homeless youth also have a hard time getting an education, because of the school system’s legal guardianship requirements, residency requirements, and requirements for proper records. Not to mention, sometimes kids just don’t have transportation to school. A lack of education certainly makes it harder for these kids to get on their feet and take care of themselves.
Isn’t it sickening when you think about it? Did you realize how many kids are homeless in our country, and not only how many are homeless, but how many are homeless BY THEMSELVES? Can you believe some of the circumstances these kids are in? Can you believe that a parent would kick their child out of their home, knowing that they have nowhere safe to go? Isn’t it awful imagining what they go through out there?
We cannot continue to allow this to happen to youth in our country. This is happening to far too many kids, and it shouldn’t be happening at all. We need more programs with emergency shelters available to young people. We need a health care plan designed specifically for homeless youth so their needs can be taken care of. We need programs that will help these youth regain stability, and especially programs with staff who are trained to break through their walls of fear and cynicism. We need to help these young people get an education, and help them find jobs so they can support themselves and gain skills they need to be successful. We need to educate our community so everyone is aware of what’s going on. We need to coach parents to be GOOD parents and take care of the needs of their children, rather than throwing them out on the streets and abandoning them. We need to take care of the children in our country.
Here at Youth Outreach in Newberg, Oregon, we offer a variety of services to runaway and homeless youth in Yamhill County.
- We have a Safe Shelter program, in which we offer emergency shelter for youth ages 11-17 who run away, are kicked out, are homeless, or maybe just need some time away from their parents. We have a 24 hour hotline the youth can call in case they need shelter after hours. We pick them up wherever they are, and take them to stay with a family in our community, where they’ll have a warm bed and food to eat.
- For youth ages 18-21, we have a Transitional Living Program for those who are homeless or kicked out. We set them up in an apartment for up to a year and a half (at no cost to them), and we help them find a job, save money, go to college if they’d like, and accomplish whatever other goals they have so they can be successful.
- We have a Street Outreach program that allows us to reach youth in our community. Every day, we send a team of three staff/volunteers out to tell youth about our services. We go downtown, to parks, and other places where youth often hang out. We carry a backpack full of food, toiletries, socks, and anything else a homeless youth may need.
- We recently started a Jobs Program. We have a Job Development Specialist who is available to help teens who need help finding a job, creating a resume, or practicing interview skills. She has monthly “Jobs Workshops” where she goes over different aspects of what it takes to get a job.
- In downtown Newberg, we have a Teen Drop-In Center that is designed to keep teens off the streets and in a safe, positive environment with adults who care. We have board games, video games, pool, fooseball, and other activities. We plan fun parties and events. We give the youth snack everyday after school, and have food bags available for homeless youth who come in. We have Study Hall twice a week, and offer free tutoring. We also offer peer support groups and prevention classes every month, and discuss things like safe dating, teen drinking, how to quit smoking, etc. Our drop-in center is open until 9 pm, giving teens a safe place to hang out even after dark.
The goal is to completely end youth homelessness by 2020. It’ll take a lot of work, but we need to get these kids out of danger and give them a better life.
Cocaine is one of the most dangerous drugs out there. Teens think it’s cool because it’s a stimulant drug, meaning it gives you tons of energy so you can stay up all night long and party and hang with friends. But it can also kill you.
Stimulants are drugs that elevate your mood, give you more energy, and increase your feelings of well-being. Basically, they cause your body to speed up… which means they also elevate your heart rate and blood pressure, which is incredibly dangerous.
Cocaine is available in two different forms. It can be in powder form, which people can either snort or inject with a needle (if they mix it with water); or it’s sometimes in the form of small white rocks, otherwise known as “crack cocaine,” and can be smoked. Some street names for cocaine are coke, coca, snow, blow, flake, candy, or rock; it’s also called “speedball” when it’s mixed with other drugs.
Here are some of the short-term effects of cocaine:
- faster heartbeat
- body feels hot
- shaking and twitching
- can’t sleep or eat
- feelings of anger, nervousness, paranoia, and fear
- stomach pain
- weight loss
- after the high wears off, you will crash and feel tired and sad for days (and crave it)
And here are some of the long-term effects:
- built up tolerance (so you crave more and need more to feel the same high)
- strange unpredictable behavior, like panic attacks and feeling paranoid
- snorting can lead to hoarseness, loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, and a constant runny nose
- respiratory problems
- heart attack
- brain damage
- violent behavior
- sudden death (even for first time users)
If you suspect that one of your friends may be using cocaine, you definitely need to get them help. It could save their life. You can usually tell that something sketchy is going on when friends start acting really weird, and not like themselves: if they’re starting to not do as well in school, hanging out with a different crowd, if they seem depressed and have lost weight, lost their motivation, and aren’t taking care of their appearance and hygiene. People using drugs are also very moody, might have changed their sleeping pattern, and have bloodshot, tired looking eyes. They also might always be asking for money, or even stealing money.
Try talking to your friend and ask if something’s going on. In some cases, they may actually open up and be honest with you about what they’ve been doing. But sometimes, probably in most cases, teens can be afraid or embarrassed to admit that they’re using drugs, and will lie to even their closest friends. They might get angry with you. If that happens, you need to tell an adult. You aren’t telling on them, or getting them in trouble… you’re literally saving their life by telling someone. It’s nothing to feel bad about. Tell a trusted adult, like a parent, school counselor, teacher, or coach. They can help you confront your friend and get them the help they need.
You could also have your friend call either 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-662-HELP. By calling these hotlines, your friend can talk to a professional about the steps they should take to get over their cocaine addiction. Or, you can go online with them and visit http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment and find a local treatment center where they can receive help.
Cocaine is highly addictive, so even if your friend has only tried it a few times, they’re still craving it. Or if they’ve been using for a long time, it’s going to continue to get worse. It’s only a matter of time until something happens to them. Get them the help they need NOW.
A lot of teens today are super busy. They have tons of stuff going that they worry about: extracurricular activities, big tests, college applications, school projects, dating, friends, family stuff. Having so many things going on can cause stress: that’s totally normal. Everyone gets a little stressed from time to time. But sometimes stress can turn into anxiety, and too much anxiety can be bad.
Anxiety is essentially feelings of uneasiness, nervousness, dread, fear, or panic. People who are experiencing anxiety may experience a faster heartbeat or breathing, tense muscles, sweaty palms, a queasy stomach, and/or trembling hands or legs. These feelings are caused by a rush of adrenaline that occurs as a defense mechanism when someone feels threatened in some way, like potentially feeling embarrassed, making a mistake, not fitting in, stumbling over their words, or feeling rejected.
Don’t you usually feel this way when you’re about to give a presentation, or go on a date, or take a big test? I sure do. That’s totally normal. Most people do feel that way when they’re about to do something big and unusual that they aren’t used to doing. Sometimes a little anxiety and nervousness can be helpful, and motivate you to do your best. But there are a lot of people who feel anxiety all the time.
Some people feel anxious and nervous for no reason at all, or about something that’s part of their daily routine. This is usually because they have an anxiety disorder. People with anxiety disorders can let their nerves take over their life. They can feel so panicked and tense that they won’t go out with friends, or do things they enjoy. It can affect their happiness and quality of life.
If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, here are the signs:
- You feel anxious, worried, or afraid for no reason at all
- You worry too much and feel nervous about everyday events or activities
- You’re constantly checking to see if you did something right
- You’re so panicky that you’re unable to function in certain situations
If you think you have this issue, it can be embarrassing and hard to talk about. But realistically, you aren’t alone! SO many people have bad anxiety. Believe it or not, approximately 13% of teenagers just like you have bad enough anxiety that they need treatment and medication.
Here are some things you can do to help your anxiety:
- See your doctor and get a checkup. They might be able to prescribe you some medication that will help.
- See a mental health professional. They can definitely help you figure out exactly what you can do to feel more relaxed.
- Get regular exercise, good nutrition, and enough sleep. Just being healthy can help your nerves.
- Try some relaxation techniques. Find something that works for you, whether it’s doing yoga, breathing exercises, listening to relaxing music, or going for a walk.
- Recognize your emotions and why you’re feeling that way. Sometimes just admitting that the situation is stressful and being prepared to deal with it can help you calm down significantly.
There are all different kinds of anxiety, too: OCD, phobias, social anxiety, panic attacks, and PTSD are all forms of it. They can all hurt you and make your life miserable if you don’t get help. Experts don’t really know what exactly causes anxiety, but some of their ideas are: genetics, brain biochemistry, stressful life circumstances, and learn behavior. But no matter how it happened to you, it isn’t your fault. Just ask for help and start living your life to the fullest, without a worry in the world!
With school coming to an end and all your final projects, papers, presentations, and exams just around the corner, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of work you need to get done. You are excited about the small amount of time left until summer, but at the same time you’re nervous because it feels like there is not enough time to get everything done. Panic sets in and stress begins to creep into your life. You feel tense, and your sleeping patterns may be way off.
Do not let stress take hold of your life these last few weeks of school. Instead, defeat the stress and have a smoother ending to your school year. How? Don’t worry. We’ve got your back with some easy tips for you to follow to be stress-less:
1) Dance it out
There is nothing like getting up out of your seat, turning up your favorite tunes, and shaking off the stress by dancing. Just stand up, and take a few moments to let it all out. Not only is it fun, but it also helps you relieve some of the tension that has built up in your muscles and it helps clear your mind. And if you are by yourself, you can dance as goofy as you want! If you’re with friends, turn it into a dance party!
2) Go for a walk
Summer is getting closer, and that means more sunny days are ahead. Go take a walk in the sunshine and warm weather. Don’t rush, but relax and take your time. Look at your surroundings, breathe in the clean air, listen to the sounds, and just pay attention to the little things and enjoy them. Don’t get so busy that you don’t notice the beauty in the little things in life.
3) Talk about it
Time to call your BFF or go to someone you trust and VENT. Sometimes that is all we need to see clearly through the cluttered mess that our lives turn into. Talk to someone and share what is stressing you out. Sometimes talking through things with someone helps you realize something you didn’t see before, and you get an outside perspective from someone else. Sometimes, all you need are words of encouragement and someone who can tell you, “You can do this!” So, don’t just sit there. Turn to someone and get your stress off your chest.
Take a few deep breaths in and out. When you are stressed, your breathing pattern actually changes as part of a “fight or flight” mode. Controlling your breathing helps you relieve some of the stress you have built up. Why do you think breathing is such a key component in yoga?
5) Go to bed earlier
You are not doing yourself or anyone else any favors by staying up late into the night. Not only does less sleep have the potential to increase stress, it also lowers your performance level. High stress and bad performance is not a good combination. If it can wait another day, it can wait another day. Getting a good nights sleep will help your stress and help you be more efficient during your day as well.
6) Focus on what you can control
Sometimes we put so much on ourselves and some of those things are just out of our control. Make notes of the things you do have control over and write them down in a “to-do” list. Do not carry more than you need to.
7) Reminiscence about good times/laugh
Sometimes, when I have been working on homework and projects for a long time, I’ll take a break and go through my Facebook pictures. I’ll look through some old memories and good times with friends and family, and it brings a smile to my face. It helps to ease my mind and settle my thoughts. You can also watch some funny videos. Make sure to leave room for laughter in your day. It’s a good reminder that all is well and life is good.
8) Ask for a hug
I don’t know about you, but I love hugs. Friends will ask me how I am doing and I will sometimes respond with, “I just need a hug.” There is no better feeling than a tight hug from a close friend to help squeeze out some of the stress and remind me that I am loved and cared about.
9) Look for opportunities in life’s challenges
When we are presented with a challenge, like a paper or test, we tend to look at the negative side. “This paper is so long!” or “This test is going to be so hard!” We focus so much on the negative that we fail to see the positive in the work that we are doing. Why not make a list of the opportunities and good things you get out of the assignments you have?
Why smile? Because at the end of the day, everything will be okay and you will get through this. You have done it before and you can do it again. So, smile and remember you can do this and you are close to the finish line. Finish strong and stress-less.