I’ve watched the movies and TV shows. I’ve read all the young adult novels, and I’ve heard the countless stories about mental illness in young adults and teenagers. I however, have never put this information in the context of my own life. It always felt like a topic so far away from me that is easy to pretend doesn’t exist.
An object in motion stays in motion unless acted on by an outside force. I was moving through life dealing with the events of junior year looking forward to college, I was staying in motion…until my life was acted on upon by a completely outside force.
When I went high school I made new friends and naturally met their old friends. This year those friends all decided to pair off and go to homecoming together. I ended up going with a boy I had never met before and who went to a different school. This didn’t bother me though, I was looking forward to the dance for months. It didn’t exactly play out like I had anticipated, unfortunately.
I think he must have been really nervous because he didn’t dance or talk to me the entire night. I moved on from that disaster of night knowing I didn’t have to see him again and knowing I had another homecoming next year. But for some reason unbeknownst to me, the boy was still texting me and asked me to be his girlfriend. I said no because I don’t believe in having a boyfriend in high school and I only knew this boy well enough to know we were not compatible.
How little did I know though because down the line he confided in me that kids at his school told him to kill himself, and he was depressed and had thoughts of suicide. I won’t lie, being a teenager myself, I thought the same thing as many people do when they are introduced to the idea of mental illness in teenagers:
What do teenagers have to be sad about, you have your whole life ahead of you?
But nonetheless, I couldn’t ignore his plea for help and I was truly scared for his well-being, so I told my parents and got them involved. Together, we got him help and notified his parents.
I know I did everything I could for this boy I had only a few conversations, but still I was left with this overwhelming feeling of anger. I felt guilty at myself for not wanting anything more to do with the situation, even when I knew he still needed a friend. Angry at him for putting me in this position. Angry at his much closer friends who knew he was struggling and didn’t do a single thing. How can you justify it with yourself to do nothing for someone you know so deeply is struggling?
I was confused and upset. What I found out from this circumstances was the fact that, 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness. That’s 20 percent of our population, but yet only about 4 percent of the total health care budget is spent on our mental health. My point is that everyone has an obligation to help those in need. What still remains in the grey area is what happens after you act. How much responsibility do you take for someone else’s emotions when your only seventeen? Is it justifiable to not want any responsibility? Or is it just selfish?
And whose duty is it to take care of America’s youth that are too old to be coddled, but too young to be thrown into the world as an adult? When mental illness is brought up people look straight at the parents and often make the assumption that the parents don’t really know there child. The fact is that for at least seven hours a day teenagers are spending time with their friends in school. Should we start putting the responsibility of another person’s well-being on their piers…other teenagers?
No one would disagree that the topic of mental illness is hard to talk about; mostly because it is not cut and dry. Shows like ‘13 Reasons Why’ have brought the topic to the forefront in a very honest way. Many parents rallied against that show; did it strike a nerve that was literally way too close to home?
Recently, there have been news stories detailing the most recent teen suicide or school shooter. Many times brought into the conversation is mental illness through constant bullying at the hands of other teenagers. Perhaps it is time to look at the underlying causes of the mental illness issue regarding teenagers.
Bullying, unattainable goals regarding physical appearance, pressure to “do all and be all” so that you can get into the “right” college etc. Many of these issues are driven by adults. Consider this a wake- up call to the adult readers out there. Maybe if there wasn’t this type of anxiety created, this boy I knew would have felt more comfortable to reach out sooner. And maybe he wouldn’t have had to reach so far away from his parents and closer circle of friends.
If you or someone you know if going through a difficult time or having thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 or going to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/