Vajra Blue

Mindfulness and Compassion. Understanding trauma in young people.


Depression: When your teenager sings the blues?

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It has been said that one of the reasons that teenagers in the western world struggle, is because there are no clear rites of passage to mark their transition from childhood to adult responsibilities. No cattle jumping ceremonies, no circumcision rituals, no going walkabout.

Instead, there seems to have been the almost random selection of a particular birthday to mark the start of adulthood.  The age at which this happens has changed over the years, from celebrating the twenty-first birthday in my parents’ day when we were given the key to the door, to the eighteenth birthday in my youth – where I was among the first group of 18 year olds able to vote in Britain. At the moment there is talk of reducing this age of transition even further to sixteen.

One of the reasons for this long period of transition is the long period of education and training necessary for young people to learn all the knowledge, and skills, required to function in the modern world. This has become necessary because of the move away from a traditional, predominantly rural, hand-made world – one where there were clear boundaries between child and adult – to the modern industrial and digital age, where adolescence has become a long, drawn out affair, stuck in a twilight zone between the two.

In a world where many of the old certainties have gone, young people are struggling to develop a strong sense of identity and to grow to maturity in a world of rapid change. A world where technologies become obsolete almost as soon as they are introduced.

Most seem to cope well with this period of adolescent development, but a sizeable minority struggle, threatening to drown in this stormy sea of change and uncertainty. It is this group of young people who are at the highest risk of developing a depressive syndrome, with all the problems that this can bring to their future emotional, social, and personal development.

It is this group who would benefit from extra support and help in negotiating the transitional process.

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Social Exclusion: bullying, stigma, and being different.

image As members of the human species we are, by our very nature, social animals. We evolved living in groups, our hunter gatherer lifestyle meant that we were seldom, if ever, alone. Because of this we tend to go into a physical and mental decline if we are denied contact with our fellow humans. A strong, supportive social network of family and friends is one of the main protectors against stress.

It should therefore come as no surprise, that research has demonstrated strong emotional responses to both being excluded from the group, or being forced to exclude others from the group. This could be something as simple as being briefly involved in a game with strangers in the park, only for them to suddenly just carry on as if you were not there, to the deliberate ostracism that occurs when bullies get to work in schools, or whole societies make artificial divisions among people. These emotional responses can also come into play where groups are socially excluded or isolated as part of a deliberate policy, or unintentionally, when forces such as institutional racism come into play.

There are very good reasons why solitary confinement has been used as a punishment or form of torture for thousands of years.

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Don’t pass me by – you might just save my life.

“On the parable of the Good Samaritan: “I imagine that the first question the priest and Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” 
Martin Luther King.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is a teaching from the Christian faith about kindness. More importantly, it is about everyone being a part of the same world, and how, as social creatures, we cannot afford to be indifferent to our fellow human beings. Status, rules, or any other artificial barriers that we place between ourselves and others, are often the excuses that we give to ourselves for not getting involved.

It is their choice, someone else will stop to help, I don’t know what to do, I am going to be late. Similar justifications may come to us as reasons to explain our choice not to become involved.

When the immediate risk of suicide is high, getting involved saves lives.

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Suicide: Taking up arms against a sea of troubles…..

The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card of some delay
So this is all I have to say
Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
I can take it or leave it if I please
And you can do the same thing if you please.

The theme from MASH

As a teenager I loved the programme MASH.

The adventures of the staff of a mobile army surgical hospital in the Korean War.

I particularly liked the theme tune and used to hum and sing it to myself. 

One day my mother heard me singing the words of the chorus, and became angry with me. It wasn’t for several years afterwards that I fully understood why.

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Repaying the sleep mortgage at three months a year.

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Some people cannot sleep because they have insomnia. Me? I cannot sleep because I have an Internet connection.

Sleep is a sadly neglected part of human life. If we are short of time, if we have too much to do, or are under pressure at work, or with our homework, we tend to scrimp on our sleep. Working an all nighter is a badge of honour in some companies. This sounds like a good idea, freeing up more time for us to deal with the stressful goings on in our lives. However we may just be storing up more trouble for ourselves than we avoid.

Many of the old wives tales and nursery rhymes contain a large element of truth.

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a boy healthy, wealthy and wise.

You need your beauty sleep.

Missing a night of sleep has the same effects on our brains as having a blood alcohol level that is above the legal driving limit.

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Lemmings, the Internet and pornography.

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Nature usually finds a way to balance populations. When there is plenty of food populations grow. An increased population means that there are more mouths to feed. This results in a reduction in the available food supply which in turn brings about a fall in the population.

Lemmings are renowned for being suicidal and jumping off cliffs. However this is not what is really happening. When lemming population density reaches a certain point, the population is triggered to migrate, and sets off in search of pastures new. No matter what is in the way they travel until they have found somewhere where food is plentiful. So, if they come to a cliff, they will swarm straight over it and head out to sea, to find new land or drown.

This headlong rush results in either finding a fresh supply of food to support the larger population, or a significant reduction in population so that the available food resources can support it. The cycle repeats itself over the years. This headlong rush to their doom is innate to the lemmings’ mind. A similar foolhardy rush to try new things seems to be inherent to humans, like lemming we seem oblivious to the inherent dangers in what we do.

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