Paris Jackson's suicide attempt has put the spotlight on the fragility of teenagers and the importance of being aware of the difference between regular moodiness and depression. Here, an iVillage reader reveals how she fought teen depression and self-harm and won. Plus, an expert answers parents most pressing questions.
"From childhood, I had always been a very quiet and unhappy person with a very low self-esteem and general lack of confidence. I didn't know any better, so I just thought that was the way I was. So, I never told anyone – I just bottled it all up.
I've never had any reason to be depressed because my life has been relatively trouble-free and straightforward – often, I felt depressed for no reason. But at the age of 14, I came to a point where I could no longer cope. To make matters worse, my hormones were all over the place and I was a complete mess inside. It got so bad that I started to self-harm. I was so ashamed of myself for doing this and I was actually frightened of myself because I didn't know how far I'd go each time. I couldn't wear anything that would show the marks on my arms, so I always wore long sleeves, even in the summer.
I continued to self-harm for two years and managed to keep it a secret. I got more and more depressed to the point where I wouldn't even leave the house. I had no will to live anymore – I used to lie in bed in my black hole, crying all the time. I just felt so empty and lonely and wanted to put myself out of my misery by killing myself. The only reason I didn't was because I didn't want to upset my family and friends.
At first I just pretended to feel unwell and ended up missing loads of school, including my exams. Then I did become physically ill – my body was really weak, I was hardly eating and I suffered from insomnia.
My could see that I wasn't right, so she forced me to tell her what was wrong. It was so hard to tell her, but I'm so glad now that I did. I showed her my arms, which were a complete mess by then. She was so upset by it, so were the rest of my family, and I felt so guilty for upsetting and worrying them, but I was so relieved that I'd let it off my chest.
She sent me to the doctors, who then referred me to a psychiatrist as an emergency case. He told me I had a quite severe case of clinical depression and that I'd had it since a very early age. It wasn't triggered by anything at all. I was put on antidepressants and sleeping tablets, and given scar treatment for my arms.
The fact that I knew I wasn't on my own anymore helped me start my recovery, and then the antidepressants kicked in. I saw the psychiatrist for about six months and, in that time, I reduced the amount of times I was harming myself and I started to take control. I forced myself not to self-harm again, and I made myself think positively, as it was the only way to beat my depression. I got so much better, I stopped seeing my psychiatrist. I did really well in my exams, which gave me a real sense of achievement. I started to enjoy life, to do what other teenagers did – I went out with my friends, got a new boyfriend and felt much more outgoing and confident.