Learning to deal with depression
Students on the Youth Suicide Prevention Project say the best way to help people with depression is to listen, writes Michelle Chan
The key to helping depressed friends and fellow teenagers is to listen patiently and be supportive.
That is the message delivered by the Youth Suicide Prevention Project, according to the students who took part in the campaign.
It is organised by the KELY Support Group (KELY), Outward Bound and the Samaritans.
A group of 12 teenagers joined the project in July. They attended training workshops dealing with what depression is, how to identify the signs of suffering and how to cope with the situation.
They also attended a seven-day leadership camp run by Outward Bound Hong Kong and made several presentations at schools in Hong Kong.
One of the participants, Stephanie Tang, a Year 12 student from the Australian International School, said it is quite hard to pick up depression signs.
'People who are depressed normally don't want to talk or hang out with friends,' said the 18-year-old.
'And they may look sad or embarrassed,' added Tek Magar, 16, a Form Four student at Delia Memorial School (Hip Wo).
The best way to help is to have a chat and try to understand how they feel, the group of young volunteers said.
'If they don't want to talk to you, and you have concerns about their sadness, you may convey your worries to teachers or social workers who can help the peer in need,' said Sagar Patnani, 15, a Form Three student from Delia.
Grace Viado, 15, another Delia student, said she once had a good friend who was depressed.
'It was the first time I was dealing with someone very close to me,' she said.
'I am not sure how long she had been depressed. It just came out of the blue. I asked if she was feeling fine, then she poured everything out.'
According to Grace, her friend, like many other teenagers, was stressed out from school work and family. Fortunately, she quickly recovered.
The most important skill that the group learned from their training was never to give advice. Instead, they used a technique called 'reflective listening' when dealing with depressed friends or peers.
'When they tell you that they're depressed, you should ask them: 'Oh, you're unhappy. Do you want to talk about it?,' Sagar explained. 'Then you're asking them to tell you their story, and they realise that you are supporting them.'
Instead of trying to offer advice, you should listen patiently and refer them to organisations like KELY or the Samaritans if they need help. 'Let them realise that you are trying to understand how they are feeling. We are there to help, to listen patiently, but not to give any advice,' Grace said.
Barbara Jansen, the youth services co-ordinator at KELY, said that being a reflective listener is of enormous importance to someone who is feeling depressed. This motivates the student to talk about their inner feelings and thoughts, Ms Jansen said.