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Teenagers are going to love this finding – in a trial where school started half an hour later than usual, there was a decrease in self-reported depression and unhappiness. Apparently the ideal time for a teenager to get up is 8am, which often doesn’t allow teenagers enough time to get their sleep. So in order to see how teenagers would respond with more sleep in the morning, researchers in America examined what would happen if school opened at 8:30 instead of 8:00 over a three month period.  They found that as well as decreasing tiredness and lateness, the percentage of students reporting unhappiness and depression was decreased from 65% to 45%. Interestingly, students seemed to go to bed 15 minutes earlier.

I’m curious whether eventually the teenagers would get used the extra half hour, and want another half hour, which would start to get less feasible. But nonetheless, this research reminds us of the important link between sleeping well and mental health. If we’re not getting enough sleep this can negatively effect our wellbeing, so it is important to make sure we’re getting enough sleep to keep us healthy. Teenagers, if you’re not getting enough sleep, maybe you can use this research to try to convince your parents and school to let you sleep in for an extra half hour? Otherwise, you’re stuck in the same boat as the rest of us, and may have to try to get more sleep at the other end of the day.

I recently came across an article that highlights some misconceptions about depression. The story is basically this; a woman in the US is off work for depression, getting getting wages covered by an insurance company. But at some point, the insurance company looks at photo’s posted on Facebook, and it appears they decide she looks “too happy” to be depressed, and so they stop covering her, despite the fact she was doing the activities in the photos at the suggestion of her doctor.

Now, I’d be hesitant to make a judgment call about all of this on the basis of one article, but it does bring out some interesting issues.

For a start, it looks like the company may not have a clear understanding of what depression is. While ‘anhedonia’ – a diminished capacity to experience pleasure – is one of the symptoms of depression, there is a lot more to depression than ‘never going out and having fun’. People with depression may have more difficulty doing enjoyable things, and ‘having fun’ may be a part of recovery for some with depression, but to boil down depression to not looking happy – and specifically not having happy looking Facebook photos – is just crazy.

And I guess what is worries me about this story is that it looks like the insurance company is effectively discouraging proper recovery. One can imagine the poor woman struggling with depression, managing to find the energy to enjoy a few good evenings, and perhaps starting to feel like life is good. Suddenly in swoops an insurance company and ruins it all, and tells her to stop enjoying life, to stop doing what she needs to do to get through depression.

Of course, this is all based on a news report, and may be a little on the sensationalist side. However, this story highlights the importance of understanding depression – and an individual’s own experience – before anyone can decide whether someone fits their model of depression.

September 2020