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East Hall students seek to unveil a secret
Students Against Destructive Decisions raise awareness for depression
Macy Reeves, left, student adviser for Students Against Destructive Decisions at East Hall High, and SADD committee member Marissa Thompson read an information card that is handed out to students as part of their fundraiser for the To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit foundation that helps people struggling with depression, addiction and self-injury.

Despite their efforts, parents sometimes aren't aware of what's going on in their teens' lives. And one thing that could be going on is depression.

Clayton Teem, professor of psychology at Gainesville State College, said 20 to 25 percent of adolescents will experience depression.

"It seems to be something that has been rising over the last five decades or so," Teem said. "When you combine that with ... drugs and various sources of stress that people are dealing with, I would say it's a significant problem."

A group of East Hall High School students with Students Against Destructive Decisions have organized a fundraiser to bring awareness to the issue.

Members of the chapter are selling wristbands to raise money for the To Write Love on Her Arms nonprofit foundation, which helps people struggling with depression, addiction and self-injury.

Macy Reeves, a senior student adviser for the East Hall SADD chapter, is spearheading the fundraiser and attempting to spread the campaign to other schools throughout the county.

"Even just one county can make a really big impact," she said.

Reeves said drunken driving often overshadows issues such as adolescent depression that can be just as destructive.

"I wanted to make people realize the issues that nobody
wants to talk about are still there," she said.
Students have been receptive to the cause, she added.

"They have actually had friends that have had to deal with issues like this or they themselves have had to," she said.

Jim Sargent, director of student services for Hall County Schools, said depression is reaching children of younger ages than it has in past years, as young as 5 or 6.

"I can't imagine that there isn't a strong correlation between the increase in depression issues across all demographic groups just based on the rise in poverty, substance abuse increases and different substances being introduced and pernicious Internet abuse," Sargent said. "I honestly believe that kids have far more to cope with today than they did in my generation. We had our issues, but it's bleaker times."

Understanding why more students are suffering from depression is difficult. Teem said adolescence can be difficult because it's a time of change and major life decisions.

Students are often having to balance school and a job, as well as making post-high school decisions.

That changing environment can spark sudden mood swings. In many cases, though, it's much more than just moodiness, Teem said.

"Even recognizing depression is a more difficult thing, particularly among younger individuals because we have got another process going on and that is their own individual development," he said.

Many adults suffering from depression are seeking help, but adolescents often hide their suffering from friends and family members, Teem said.

Social standards, mainstream media and even groups of friends can present mixed messages to young people.

"I think with younger individuals it has a lot to do with the social messages," Teem said. "We look at others to see how we ourselves look."

Social networking sites could also be contributing the issue, officials said.

Some websites make it easier for people to conceal their identity and presents the opportunity to make accusations or bully others, Teem said.

"These are questions that science is just in the process of investigating and trying to figure if it makes a difference," Teem said.