What’s on your bucket list? A month ago, I met a boy wearing a graphic South Park T-Shirt, a baseball cap backwards slightly tilted off-center, and yes… stunna shades. He was the epitome of a “class clown” cracking jokes left and right with his buddies but before I could go ask him to shape up… “On my bucket list, I want to graduate High School.” We were in the middle of a very serious moment of sharing personal stories and I thought for sure this was going into the next contestant for Last Comic Standing.
“You see, no one in my family has graduated HS and I’m currently struggling to hold a D+ average. My grandpa died a few months ago and he was very close to me. My dad died last week and I’ve attempted suicide 13 times.” … … … (gasp). In that moment, time had gone still. I could feel the air I was breathing into my lungs and if a pen dropped it would have felt like Loma Prieta. “I want to thank someone who is in this room right now. That one night when I was close, Tony was there to save my life. He is my best friend and I admire you (Tony).”
With Thanksgiving among us, let us be thankful for the time we have on Earth and give thanks for the people in our lives like the boy’s friend, Tony. The struggle really is real for youth these days. According to a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School Understanding Depression, “Today 11% of teens are diagnosed with depression.”
How’d we get here? Self-esteem and self-worth have decreased since seven years ago when I was in HS. Today school performance, social status, sexual orientation, family life, you name it, are all reasons to lead to a change in behavior, thinking, or feeling of depression in teens. For me, the most shocking thing I’ve witnessed in teens is their response to this question, “Do you ever wonder if you may not have what it takes to be successful?”
The bigger question is what can we do to minimize depression in youth? First and foremost, I feel we can start with three things: attention, recognition, and appreciation. We all just want to feel some sort of love. Maybe it’s a smile, a head knod, a “good morning,” or a hug but acknowledging others is a simple act that has surely diminished. Maybe it’s holding the door for someone after class. Maybe it’s smiling at a stranger in line behind you in the lunch line. I actually heard a high school that started a high-five hallway. For me, when I dealt with depression I would always lean on three things: friends, family, and faith. For some, faith may not be apart of their life or their family life may not be somewhere to turn to but a friend could be someone to turn to. Regardless, from my experience, one of the three elements: friends, family, or faith help with getting through depression.
Like the boy from the bucket list, he had his friend Tony to be there for him. With Thanksgiving around the corner, is there someone you haven’t told your thankful for them in a while. Someone I haven’t told thank you to; John, thank you for being my baby sitter when I was little. Thank you for being an other brother to me and thank you for being there for me when I was lost and leading me to go to Saint Mary’s College. It’s been one of my greatest blessings.