I was inspired by Professor Railton’s courage to join him in coming “Out of the Closet” to admit that I, too, have lived through debilitating depressive episodes.
Railton says: “We must call [depression] mental illness because that’s what it is, illness that takes up residence in the mind, but no more of the essence of a person than any other illness. And when we hear of mental illness, treatment should be the first thing that comes to mind.”
The Facebook link to my “confession” prompted an outpouring of moving stories, mutual support and help that I hope to make more accessible with this and other posts.
Teenagers are especially vulnerable to depression and are among the least well equipped to get help. Liz wrote: “The black dog” of depression and other mental illnesses are part of our common human experience. We need to be able to openly discuss our mental health, just like we do our physical health: there should be no shame in being in pain. I was recently gratified to read an article my high-school age daughter wrote for our local paper on this subject; I didn’t know she was that brave! Maybe it means things are actually changing?
Liz’ daughter, Katie, is indeed brave and her article “Teen Talk: YouTube can be a valuable resource” offers very practical help.
Katie begins by telling us: “Studies show that the number of teenagers who report feeling regularly anxious and/or depressed has doubled in the last 30 years or so, that children today have anxiety levels similar to those of the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s.”
When Katie experienced “a perfect storm of stress and unhappiness” she, like every teenager, needed more help than her parents could provide: “I am lucky enough to have supportive parents who could sympathize with what I was experiencing, but sometimes sympathy wasn’t enough. I wanted to feel understood; I wanted a sense of camaraderie with other people my age who were going through similar things.”
What she found is: “on YouTube of all places … a handful of younger people — younger women especially — who made videos on their experiences with anxiety, depression, body image and mental illnesses in general, to spread awareness and encourage recovery … People … offered authentic and beneficial suggestions on how to manage living with anxiety or depression on a day-to-day basis.”
This is so important because: “Teenagers who don’t feel comfortable telling anyone that they are dealing with mental illness now have somewhere they are able to get information.”
“That’s not to say,” Katie writes, “that informational YouTube videos are a replacement for cognitive behavioral therapy or any other form of treatment, but they are certainly a step in the right direction — a step that many people would not normally be able to take.”
I hope we can change what Katie points out: “There is still a stigma surrounding mental illness. Our culture teaches us that mental illness is something we must keep to ourselves, something that is too personal to share or discuss, something we should feel ashamed of.”
But people need help now. So, everyone who knows a teenager, here’s a way they or a friend can get help when they feel alone, too vulnerable to talk.
Thank you so much, Liz and Katie!