Year 11 boys’ CT session with Mr Steve & Mr Chan
It was just like an ordinary Thursday, after my ICT class and as usual, Year 11 students had their Character Transformation (CT) session. We were assuming that today’s talk would be regarding issues faced by separate genders, which was why boys and girls were separated into different classrooms. I’m not quite certain on what Ms. Cynthia and Ms. Sim shared with the girls, but we were given the opportunity to have Mr. Steve and Mr. Chan speak to us about youth depression.
We started off the session with a video from the World Health Organization (WHO) of a pet called the ‘Black dog’. It’s always loyal and it always keeps you company whenever you are lonely and as time goes on, it grows and develop just like everyone does. Everyone has it: the “black dog of depression”.
Mr. Steve also shared with us, an analysis done by the WHO on the highest possible causes of illness and deaths in the future; and that “depression” – surprisingly – will be second only to AIDS as the cause of debilitating illnesses by 2030. Mr. Steve told us that although he isn’t an expert on physiology, he was willing to share his own journey through depression. It is said that after overcoming depression, you would suffer from a perception of memory loss; you won’t remember much of what you really went through, only bits and parts of it. Mr. Steve recalls having suffered from depression at the tender age of 8. In his primary and secondary school years, he had always put on a mask; an invisible mask. “I was the loudest, most outgoing and most active person. I have even committed shoplifting. Was I happy with myself? No, I wasn’t.” He shared with us a thought that he had: “If I could keep everyone on ‘this side’ of Steve, no one would know the dark side of Steve.”
His ‘black dog’ grew in size; it followed and kept him company as he became an adult and started working. “I worked hard; I had all the money I wanted”, and just like when he was a child in his schooling years, “…when I was with my friends, I was always the outgoing and friendly one, but behind-the-scenes, I was a full blown alcoholic.” In those days, he had even tried to take his own life as by that time, his ‘black dog’ has grown so much that it overwhelmed him. “It was God who had helped walk me through and let me overcome it, but that would make another story. I overcame it and I know now that I can share my own story.” However, everyone’s journey is different. The main objective of today’s talk was to educate ourselves on identifying it in ourselves or our friends.
We were taught of the many causes of depression: fear of failure, social rejection, bullying or abuse, childhood memories, thoughts of a better life and worries of the future. “As a youth in Nobel, it could be anything, such as losing in Sports Day, emotional break-ups and even the pressure from your IGCSE examinations.” The general symptoms of youth depression are the feeling of sadness and hopelessness, eating disorders and a noticeable change in social life. It would be easier to spot the symptoms in your friend or even yourself through school-related factors such as poor performance, lack of energy, overreaction towards criticism, increase in self-criticism or even suicidal thoughts and actions. The human body naturally develops ways to escape all these negative feelings and sometimes we could unknowingly emotionally hurt or bully others. “It may sound comical, but it’s real, really real”, said Mr. Steve.
Mr. Steve also shared, “When we do something wrong, we get depressed due to regret. But sometimes, when you do something right, you get depressed too, and this is due to our sense of reality” and our mind is quite smart in tricking us into it. He advises everyone, “If you feel depressed, you need to understand that it’s real. Talk to someone. It’s normal for teens to have ups and downs. Talk to someone: your teacher or even your friend. You have many good teachers here in Nobel, whom are able to help your walk through it.” From his experience, Mr. Steve said “Many forms of depression are hard to identify, but if you know your friend is going through a hard time, help them, be a friend to them, talk to them.”
With his numerous years of working with children and adolescents, Mr. Chan has no shortage of stories to share of his experience with many depressed teens who have managed to push through. “It takes a lot for a person to come out and speak of having been through depression,” said Mr. Chan, acknowledging what Mr Steve had done and shared. Mr. Chan highlighted the story of a student whom he knew from another school, a student whom went through a serious case of depression. “The child would hit his head on a wall, which made his classmates panic and run out of class.” However, after receiving assistance, he turned out to be a successful student. Mr Chan also shared of a Nobel graduate, who was like Mr Steve; a very joyful and fun-loving person, but he cut himself from standard 6 to form 5. As for now, Mr Chan has lost contact with him.
Coming to an end, Mr Steve gave us three pointers to remember. (1) You are not alone, we as humans are not made to function alone, we need a group or society to live by. If you have a problem, let others help; it’s fine and normal. (2) The following statements are just lies: “no one cares or understands”, “no one should find out” – No. You are perfect. Remember, you put people through it, it’s the same, and you can help bring people up. The choice is yours. (3) You can choose to dwell and listen to the negative, or you can see for yourself how God created you and how He sees you for who you are.
The talk was concluded with advice on how not to stigmatise others who had or have depression and be conscious about whether others need help; don’t lecture them – just be there for them. I went through my own ‘black-dog’ times and it was one of the greatest teachers in life. Some people had gone through and come out victorious, some have yet to know of it, and to those who are going through it now, talk to someone“You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships – friends or family, but they can get you through this tough time.”
Here, I would like to end with the words shared from the video shown to us, “I wouldn’t say that I’m grateful for the ‘black dog’ but he has been an incredible teacher. I learnt that rather than running away from my problems it is better to embrace them. If you are in difficulty, never be afraid to ask for help. There is absolutely no shame in doing so, the only shame is missing out on life.”