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A young woman is bending over a table with pieces of a broken mirror on it, trying to put the pieces back together.

Mental Health in the Teenage Years

depression mental health resilience Dec 27, 2022

A short interview about mental health by Kai Yi Wang, BRITE Youth Leader.

On August 16 2020, I did an interview with a friend of mine who had experience with the struggles of mental health. I wanted to get her perspective of how she views mental health and her thoughts on it. I’m so thankful I was able to share her thoughts and experiences in this piece.

Kai Yi: Can you introduce yourself so the audience has a little background information? 

Anonymous: “Well, my name is {Anonymous}. I am 14 years old, and I’m going to be in 9th grade in about a month. I go to Hunter College High School in New York.”

Kai Yi: What are your thoughts on mental health and how society views it? Does social media play a role?

Anonymous: “There are a lot of parts to this. So first, personally I think mental health is really important and we don’t get taught enough about it in school. We spend only a week learning about mental health during health class and we move on. A lot of people don’t take it seriously unless you are very evidently suffering. A lot of people don’t care until it’s too late. Conversations where someone says, ‘I’ve been feeling really bad and I’ve felt like this for a while’ would get answers like, ‘Don’t worry, you will get over it.’ Then, they commit suicide and people wonder how it happened and what lead up to it. On social media, there’s another side to it and it causes people to not treat mental illness seriously. People say things like ‘I have depression’ or ‘I have OCD,’ but they don’t mean it and only say things like this for attention or to stay trendy. It becomes difficult to differentiate between who is really struggling and who isn’t.”

Kai Yi: What are your personal experiences with mental health? How has it impacted the way you view the world?

Anonymous: “So, I’ve had a lot of personal experiences. My view on the world hasn’t changed too dramatically, but it helped me realize that not everyone is always gonna be there to help you. I guess I was super naive about the world going my way and never going to have to go through things, and it felt like I was hit by a truck. There are times where I’m doing great and times where I’m not. A few years ago was one of the times where I was really struggling. It was not something that I thought really changed my life back then. But looking back now, yeah, there were definitely things I did not see or understand. Even for small things, I would rather stay home than go out with friends and family. I hate to be repetitive and cliché, but I learned to appreciate things more. There were times where I didn’t want to be around these things anymore and ‘I hate this place’ would come into my mind often. It makes me feel really good that I’m not there anymore. There are times where things get rough, but I think having the experience of being so upset helps me be like, ‘YES, girl!’ you got through that and it makes me feel really proud of myself.”

Kai Yi: Do you think you learned anything new through your struggles with mental health?

Anonymous: “Ummm, yeah! It’s not something you realize the day after or the second after you have a breakdown. It’s something you realize over time and slowly. I learned to appreciate random small things (I still worry about a lot of things), but you appreciate random things more. Because my mindset used to be like ‘I can go to school and see my friends,’ but the stress of the upcoming project was stronger and more overwhelming. But now it’s like ‘this and that.’ It’s like I get to see my friends and at the same time, the project. There is more of a balance and acknowledgment towards the positive rather than placing so much emphasis on the negative. I still struggle with it and worry about things, but it’s getting better.”

Kai Yi: What would you say is the scariest thing about mental health?

Anonymous: “I think the scariest thing about mental health is that it isn’t something you can see and touch until it’s really obvious. Comparing it to a broken leg, it’s obvious that the person is facing something. Mental health is not so obvious and it’s harder to talk about. The person has to open up and this makes it exponentially harder because as times goes on, you may have bad experiences with opening up. This leaves a negative impression and it becomes harder to open up. Things start to pile up.”

Kai Yi: How should a person respond when someone is opening up or asking for help with their mental health?

Anonymous: “This is actually really hard to answer because I think everyone has different ways they go about things. One thing that should go without saying is actually listen. Don’t just dismiss them. Really listen to what they’re saying and try to understand without being condescending. Sometimes it can go from ‘Yeah, I understand, I’m here to listen to you’ to something like ‘Yeah, I know right. Same, but we can’t do anything about it.’ And then it makes it more difficult to open up in the future.”

Kai Yi: What is something that people say or misunderstand about mental health that annoys you?

Anonymous: “I think the most obvious one is when people are like, ‘Ohh, I have depression’ and they feel sad in the moment. But there is a really fine line between being sad and having depression and most people cross over that line whenever they want. But then I wonder why they choose to cross that line? Is there some reason for wanting this attention by saying that they have depression. Something else teens say is, ‘No, you’re fine; it’s just your hormones.’ I mean, maybe it is, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m upset. It feels like they’re diminishing the way I feel.”

Kai Yi: What do you do when someone is giving you important and personal information about their mental health and they don’t want you to share it, even if it’s harming them and putting them in danger?

Anonymous: “If that person is about to commit serious danger to themselves, don’t go around sharing and blabbing but talk to people who can actually be helpful! On the other hand, they may have a specific reason why they don’t want you to tell anyone, so ask them why? That way you can avoid hurting them when asking others for help. For example, if their parents are causing them distress (from either abusive family members or child neglect), don’t go to their parents. Whatever you do, ask them why they don’t want you to get help and what their boundaries are so you know what move to make and who to confide in.”

Kai Yi: If you could make everyone understand one thing about mental health, what would it be?

Anonymous: “Okay, I would make everyone understand that mental health is not black and white. There is a spectrum of feelings and emotions. It is not, ‘You have depression’ or ‘You don’t have depression,’ or ‘You have OCD’ or ‘You don’t have OCD.’ It isn’t something I feel you can easily categorize or label or put into a specific box.”

That was the end of the interview! Thank you again to my friend for sharing such personal information and letting others know that they are not alone. Mental health is not something to be ashamed of and all your feelings are valid.

~ Kai Yi Wang