Depression is a condition that is hard to pin down. On the one hand, we have people writing angsty poetry and wearing black. Is this depression? On the other hand we have people who are in and out of counselling and are self-harming. Is this depression? The truth is that it's hard to tell. Someone who isn't really in depression may self-harm, whereas someone who is in depression may hide his or her condition extremely well. The lines are blurred, and it is only armed with information and empathy that we can truly begin to understand this complicated issue.

Clinical depression is serious. It is not just an unhappy individual; it's an illness that people suffer from. Clinical depression can occur in anyone, including teenagers, although it is more common in women than men. Depression is also the cause of 50-75% of all suicides in Britain every year. So why do people get depression? Well, depression can occasionally occur due irregularities in the biochemical make-up of the brain (as well as other physical ailments such as anaemia, low thyroid activity or addiction to drugs). It can also occur due to problems in a teenager's life (for example a death in the family, problems at home, etc). People can suffer from two types of depression:

* The 'sad' kind (also called major depression, dysthymia or reactive depression

* Manic depression (also called bipolar illness) when feeling 'low' is alternated with extreme elation (called mania) swinging to each extreme.

There are quite a few recurring symptoms of depression. Sometimes it can be hard to separate the normal feelings of sadness and grief (which are quite natural) from clinical depression. Some of the many symptoms of depression are listed here:

* The number one symptom that many advice columns and teen counsellors give is this: "you feel sad or cry a lot and it doesn't go away."

* Feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy

* Feelings of isolation or despair, and the belief that no one understands or sympathises.

* Loss of interest in work or home life.

* In severe cases, sluggish thought processes or delusions.

* Sleep patterns may change, sleep may increase or insomnia may occur.

* Some people say that they feel like they "don't exist".

* Sufferers may lose weight and women may have period problems.

* Pessimism and thoughts of death.

* Dropping out of activities (e.g. sport, music) that they enjoy.

People sometimes focus on the 'sad' side of depression, however the manic side of the illness can give as much insight into clinical depression. Some symptoms for manic depression are listed here:

* When depressed, manic-depressives may be withdrawn, self-reproachful and introverted. They will lack confidence and may contemplate suicide.

* When manic, one of the most used phrases is "on top of the world".

* Symptoms may include over-confidence and hyperactivity (like an unexplained sugar rush).

* During mania, a person can seem to survive on little or no sleep.

* Sufferers may make huge plans, and become wild and reckless.

* While this can be dealt with for a while, family and friends eventually get exhausted.

* Symptoms of manic-depressive disorder are said to resemble schizophrenia.

Some people find it hard to understand or to deal with people who have depression. We have to remember that, according to statistics, at least 70% of teenagers in depression are simply struggling through their illness with no treatment. "Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24. Even more shocking, it is the sixth leading cause of death among children ages 5-14." - .

Many friends or parents simply do not recognize the symptoms of depression in their children or relatives. Doctors say that we should be particularly aware of people who have had chronic or long-term illness, who have been abused or who have lost a loved one.

However, there is help out there. Counselling is often used (also called psychotherapy) where a trained professional helps talk the sufferer through their problems. Medicine can also be employed. Antidepressants have found to work very well in quite a number of cases. Normally, the first step is just managing to talk to somebody about it. Sometimes people make a wilful choice to do this, or sometimes they just break down and they are found out. Either way, it is important that people in clinical depression get the help that they need.

My opinion on depression? This is a subject very close to my heart, so I have tried to keep my opinion out of this essay. I don't have a personality easily taken over by depression, but it seems to have happened. Thankfully I have been able to tell someone about it and am getting counselling. This is not true for a lot of people around the world, and nobody should have to feel that way about themselves. Depression causes immense emotional pain, can affect everyone and is responsible for suicides and self-harming. What can you do? Read up on the subject, maybe, look at your friends and family, and empathise. We can beat this.