BRIDGEPORT, W. Va. (WDTV) -- One in 5 teens in the U.S. suffer from clinical depression, severe enough to impact their daily lives.
"My wife and I almost lost our son to teen depression," said Dr. Gary Nelson. "It's like walking in the valley of shadow of death."
Nelson, a counselor and an ordained minister, travels to talk to students and parents, in order to bring awareness to this issue.
"We have an epidemic in our country. Depression and related illnesses like anxiety, bi-polar disorder," he said.
Nelson and other experts held a town hall at Bridgeport High School on Nov. 28, and held a similar presentation for students earlier in the day.
They spoke to parents and other members of the community on how to help those in need.
"We're trying to help them understand that these challenges and what can they recognize as some signs or some signals that a young person might be experiencing depression," said Tim Craig, a suicide prevention coordinator.
They say depression is a mental illness that if it's not treated, it can wreck the lives of many teens and their families.
"Depression and anxiety had a stigma," said Craig. "We look at those historically as character weaknesses and not so much as medical conditions," said Craig.
"If people don't understand that it's not a behavioral issue, it's a medical illness that needs attention just like other medical illnesses," said Nelson.
Many times, depression hides as stress, low self-esteem and prompts anxiety, sleep disorders and more.
"The more people we can teach to recognize when someone that they know or they themselves may need some help, the more likely we'll get the people who need help," said Craig.