The truth about teen depression | Megan Shinnick | [email protected]

Translator: Ana Díaz Moreno
Reviewer: Denise RQ About a month ago today,
I sat on the edge of my hospital bed, and I asked myself
the simple question, “Why?” I had worked for years to be where I was, a young social activist, who co-created
two successful non-profit organizations, a good student, and an even better friend, and a girl who never lacked
positivity nor energy. I asked myself why I had ignored
what was going on in my head for so long, simply to maintain this reputation. I had already accomplished
so much in my life, when strange things began happening to me. When even though I was incredibly
academically motivated in the past, I couldn’t seem to do homework, and I removed myself from friends,
I didn’t answer my phone for a week, and I refused to go to school, and getting out of my bed
in the morning seemed impossible. Now, looking back, I realize that I had to redefine
what success was. Because if everything I’d done
in my life, leading up to that point, deemed me successful,
why was I siting in the hospital? I realize that my ability
to find this new normal, my ability to adapt
to this new-found empathy, that’s what made me successful. Being got diagnosed
with clinical depression is what it took for me
to realize what success was. Though I could go on, I’m not here
to simply tell you all about my story. I am here to tell you why I think
this is happening not only to me but to a dangerous number
of teenagers in this country. A statistics that is increasing every year and why each one of you needs to advocate
for programs and schools for teens that are suffering from
depression and anxiety. Depression in our society is not obvious when you are walking down
the street or the hallway, but simply open your laptops,
your smartphones, your tablets, and do maybe one Google search,
and you will be blown away. After my one Google search, I found that after a study
conducted in this spring, 1.6 million Tumblr blogs were examined and of those, 200,000 contained
pictures, videos, and text posts of teenagers hurting themselves
due to depression. Is it because we now have the technology
to express an ever-present feeling or is it something greater? Is it just a coincidence that school systems and standardized
tests are getting harder and college acceptance rates
are going down, and the pressures to be
stereotypical men or women are everywhere? Is it possible that we, that this society,
is the thing responsible for the increasing disease
that is more than capable of killing? And we don’t talk about it much because it is often deemed a phase,
or hormones, or being overemotional. Oftentimes, conversations regarding
mental illnesses such as depression result in words being thrown around
that are nearly irrelevant. Depression is not the emotion sadness. Depression is a state
of being below neutrality. Sadness is an emotion that comes
and goes just as happiness does. My biggest pet peeve is when someone comes
up and says something along the lines of: “I’m sorry, I was just depressed earlier,
I’m so depressed right now.” Depression does not just come
and go, it’s there. And it is the third largest cause of death
among teenagers in this country. 4,400 kids commit suicide a year, and for everyone of those,
at least 100 attempt. So now, I am standing here
asking you all the same simple question I asked myself when I was
in the hospital: why? But this time it’s: “Why we are
not doing more to prevent this?” My school has a Bridge program for kids that are transitioning in
from an extended absence. Many of us had suffered from
severe depression and severe anxiety, and many of us said
the program had saved our lives because it puts our mental health first. How can we be expected
to be successful in life and go to a good college,
and have a good career, if the pressure is too overwhelming,
and we don’t even finish high school? “Bridge” talks to our parents, teachers, anyone we need to know what is going on
in order to help us cope. The Bridge team consists
of an academic coordinator who has the weirdest taste in music, like this guy is either listening
to Bob Marley or tribal music, there is really none in between. We have a mental health specialist
who is obsessed with mini butterfingers. An intern who is insanely
good at bananagrams, and another intern who,
though is very smart and goes to Harvard, has yet to advance past two songs
on the guitar this year. But even so, this four people have become
a both necessary and life changing asset in mine and other Bridge students’ lives. I am here to ask you all a quick favour,
a quick favour to advocate to schools, advocate to your school boards
for these programs. Because when I was in the mental hospital, I met a girl, we can call her Jane, and Jane had been there for weeks and I’d never met someone
who understood what I was going through, and now I know that she felt
the exact pain, had the exact fear as me, she had been there for weeks, it was her third hospitalization
and her school had no support for her. I told her about Bridge,
and she was blown away that something like that existed. We shouldn’t have to wait
for this statistics to get higher, and the number of teens to skyrocket, because if we have the power to raise
100 million dollars in a month for ALS, we have the power to advocate
to schools for programs. I’m in the process of creating
another non-profit organization of which provides schools
with funding necessary to create these programs for teens. So please be on the lookout for that. But in the meantime, if you don’t have depression
or if you don’t know anyone who does, advocate for the 10% to 15% of our society
that are suffering from this disease. We are so blessed to live in
a country where our voices, our voices are meant to be heard,
and they actually mean something. So if just some of you,
who listen to me talk today, advocate to your school boards and beg,
plead, demand that programs are set up, and maybe you start a petition,
and it’s for school funder’s support, whatever you do, just do something,
the impact would be life changing. Together, we can fight this disease
that is controlling so many of us. And if you’re out there,
you’re dealing with the depression, turn the energy that you have
towards hatred for this awful thing into energy for change. Because together we can fight back, and we can’t let it win,
we can’t let depression win anymore. It’s time to fight back. Thank you. (Applause)