At the age of 12, I received an official diagnosis of major depression. I remember hearing phrases like "you're far too young to have depression" and "you don't even know real life, how can you be depressed?" But in my experience, depression doesn't discriminate by age. I was handed little white pills and sent to therapy, which, unfortunately, didn't seem to work for me. Today, in 2023, the same story might apply to your Gen Z child because, as you'll discover, they're not exactly "normal" either.
But before we get into that, let me introduce myself:
Who am I?
Greetings! I'm Emma G, a 34-year-old multi-hyphenate creative. I wear many hats, including being a singer/songwriter, author, podcaster, actress, and a 2-time TEDx Speaker. However, my most passionate role is that of a youth empowerment coach. My mission has always been to help people find solace and strength through music, a medium that has saved me countless times.
When I was 12 years old, I was officially diagnosed with depression.
I distinctly remember being told things like “you’re far too young to have depression”, “you don’t even know real life, how can you be depressed?”, and – my favorite – “you’re being dramatic”. But no. At 12years old: I was diagnosed with depression, given little white pills, and told to see a therapist.
Three things to note:
1. I wasn’t your normal kid.
2. Normal therapy didn’t work for me.
3. And in 2023: the likelihood is, your Gen Z kid isn’t normal either… therefore normal therapy very well might not work for them.
But let me start from the beginning.. However, the reality is that depression doesn't discriminate by age.
Causes and Risk Factors of Depression:
The causes and risk factors of depression are complex and multifaceted. My personal journey into depression was influenced by a combination of traumatic experiences, a challenging family background, and a neurological condition. These factors can significantly contribute to the development of depression in young individuals.
I talk about it in the first TEDx Talk I ever presented, but the TL;DW of it all comes down to this:
When I was 4months old, I was diagnosed with a relatively rare neurological condition called hydrocephalus, which literally translates to “water on the brain”, and meant that – at age 4months – I had my first brain surgery: when a shunt, or a really long tube, was inserted into my head to drain the water out in to my peritoneal cavity. By the age of 12: I’d had 24 life-saving surgeries – with 10 of those being on my head. Not your normal kid.
But to take things one step further: by the age of 12, I’d also been sexually assaulted more than once. And while you’re likely reading that thinking “what the heck? That’s disturbingly young”, that statistic, unfortunately, is far more “normal” than we like to think…. And it only got worse as I got older. But that’s a story for another day.
By the age of 12, I had grown up between two households and two rather different cultures: Fiji and New Zealand, and whilst I understood cognitively the reasons why: I also kind of resented both of my parents for not growing up in a traditional household. I tried my best to turn it into an adventure though.
In any case, teenage-hood hit me hard. The trauma I’d already experienced, combined with the hormonal changes, and feeling super isolated much of the time at school, I found that writing music was the only thing that brought me joy, helped me communicate my feelings, and – dare I say it – helped me feel more understood and less alone.
What Are the Different Types of Depression?:
Depression comes in various forms, and its impact can differ from person to person. In my case, major depression was my companion. Each type of depression has its unique challenges and nuances, making a personalized approach to healing vital.
What Are the Different Types of Depression?:
Traditional therapy and medication didn't work for me. and they might not be the ideal solution for your Gen Z child either.
Don’t get me wrong: I tried multiple therapists. My mum was a counsellor, so she was very familiar with the therapy world in my home town, and the different practices and approaches to therapy that might hopefully work for me… but nothing felt right.
Hypnotherapy didn’t work.
Talk therapy was annoying – and rather boring if I’m being honest.
And behavior therapy seemed to focus more on what I was doing, rather than why I was doing it.
It seemed as if every counsellor and therapist I met with was more concerned about getting our sessions over with, rather than actually trying to understand me.
I learned to tolerate the sessions… but this meant I also learned to put on a mask, and – quite literally – become a different person to the outside world, compared to how I really felt inside.
I had to try something different - which is how music played such a pivotal role in my life.
Exploring alternative treatment options [like using music and songwriting to aid my therapy] was essential to ensure that I received the support I truly needed.
Lifestyle Changes for Depression:
In my teenage years, I grappled with the traumatic experiences I had faced and the isolation I felt. This phase was marked by overwhelming hormonal changes. It was in this challenging period that I discovered the therapeutic power of music and songwriting. Lifestyle changes, such as engaging with creative outlets, can be a significant component of healing from depression.
Self-help and Coping: In my quest for healing, I tried multiple therapy approaches, but none felt right. This journey taught me the value of self-help and coping strategies. Sometimes, it's through personal exploration and creative expression that young individuals can truly find their voices and heal.
Brain Stimulation Therapies: For many, traditional therapy approaches don't offer the relief they desperately seek. Brain stimulation therapies are emerging as alternative options that can have a profound impact on depression treatment. While these therapies weren't part of my journey, they could hold potential for the next generation.
What Does Depression Do to the Brain?:
Depression has profound effects on the brain. It alters the delicate chemical balance in the brain, leading to a range of emotional and cognitive challenges. Understanding the impact of depression on the brain is crucial to finding effective treatment solutions.
Does Depression Affect Your Thinking?:
Depression can significantly impact one's thought patterns. It can lead to negative thinking, self-doubt, and even self-isolation. Recognizing the cognitive effects of depression is essential for both the individual suffering and their support network.
What about your Child?
In 2023, we are witnessing a generation raised in the digital age, and their struggles have multiplied due to a global pandemic. Depression and anxiety rates among teenagers have soared, with many resorting to digital communication, which often leaves their parents feeling disconnected.
Moreover, many young people don't trust their counselors or feel that they're too overwhelmed to help, based on recent statistics. We must address these issues.
A Solution: Youth Empowerment through Songwriting Coaching:
If you're interested in learning more about how songwriting and music can facilitate your young person’s mental, emotional, and social well-being, I invite you to click here to book a free breakthrough call with me. Together, we can help your child find their path to greatness. I look forward to speaking with you soon.