Teen finds help out of darkness

MEGAN MILLER
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2012

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Suicide: Time to talk

Sth Canty youth suicide a major concern Community, family help 'vital' Living with chronic major depression Father shocked by son's death Teens' mothers united in grief Privacy versus patient health under spotlight Don't be afraid to get help, for you or others Teen finds help out of darkness Stigma on getting help must go Gemma's story, in her own words

A Timaru teenager said she was 12 years old when she began experiencing depression, and kept her feelings secret as her condition worsened to the point of contemplating suicide.

She is now receiving help for her illness, and she and her mother contacted The Herald to share their story as part of our Suicide: Time to Talk series.

"Sarah" penned her sadness, loneliness and suicidal thoughts into poems and diary entries for many months while hiding those feelings from those closest to her.

"I felt all alone; I felt like no one loved me," the Timaru girl, now 14, said.

"Depression is a long dark nightmare and it's hard to wake up."

Sarah isn't her real name, just as Kim isn't the name of her 42-year-old mother.

The two asked The Herald to protect Sarah's identity so she could openly discuss her battle with depression and the care she now receives to help her fight it.

Sarah said she has had enough of being judged for her depression, which first began disrupting her life when she was 12.

As it worsened she began cutting herself.

Students at her school, as well as some teachers, noticed the marks on her arms, she said. But no one intervened.

There's a perception that young people who cut themselves just want attention, she said.

But the wrong kind of attention can make everything worse.

"What doesn't help is people staring," Sarah said. "People know if you're whispering about them."

She hid the cuts from her mother under her clothing, and once convinced Kim that she'd been scratched by a cat.

Kim said she noticed her daughter's mood changes, but reassured herself that it was just "teenage behaviour."

"As parents we've been told that as your child grows up you have to expect that kind of behaviour, that it's normal," she said.

"But parents need to be aware - don't take any of their behaviour for granted."

After months of feeling isolated and trapped in a dark place, Sarah, then 13, began planning how she would kill herself.

All the while she maintained to Kim that everything was fine.

"The words ‘I'm sad,' or ‘I need help' - it's a really easy sentence to say, but it's really hard to tell someone," she said.

"Really, I just wanted to be left alone."

Kim said she now understands that Sarah was past the point of thinking about how her actions would hurt the family.

"When you're numb like she was, you don't think ‘I'm going to hurt Mum, I'm going to hurt Dad,"' Kim said.

"She was just thinking, ‘I don't want to live like this any longer'."

That's when Kim made an accidental discovery that may have saved her daughter's life.

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She went into Sarah's room - against the teen's wishes - to tidy it while Sarah was at school, and found her daughter's diary.

When she picked it up, a bundle of suicide notes fell out.

Kim said she went straight to their GP's office with the notes in hand, sat for an hour, and cried.

"I was just sick," she said. "I couldn't get my head around it."

That was in February. In the six months since, Sarah has received help through her general practitioner and the Kensington Centre, in the form of medication and counselling.

Both say they see big improvements in Sarah's mood and outlook in the short time since.

"I am extremely proud of my daughter," Kim said.

"She hasn't always welcomed the help, but she has made the effort and that took a lot of courage from the dark place she was in."

The most helpful thing, Sarah said, has been just knowing the amount of support that is available to her.

Their message to others: anyone feeling depressed for more than a few weeks should try to talk with someone they trust, and people must be willing to get help for others who need it.

"Depression and suicidal thoughts don't go away on their own," Sarah said. "The longer it goes, it can get worse."

"Behind Hazel Eyes"

Behind hazel eyes
She hides her pain
Buries her fears
And tries to get rid of the pain
She feels hated, unaccepted and unloved
Behind hazel eyes
She hides her need to be loved
And cared for
All she wants is
Someone to ask her
If she's OK
No one knows
How hard she
Tries to fight it
No one knows
What it's like
To feel these feelings
That she does
Behind hazel eyes

- The Timaru Herald

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