Letter to the Editor: Mental Health at Latin


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Anonymous

There is a common misconception that a depressed person couldn’t possibly be a “functional” person too. Someone who has depression must sleep all day, avoid everyone, fail their classes, and cry all the time. Many overlook the hidden issues behind peoples’ eyes and assume that if they say they’re okay, then they really are. The reality is that as teenagers, we don’t advertise the issues we’re dealing with. We all bring baggage to school with us, things that happened to us, upsetting news we’ve received, or even just a bad mood, and it’s not always obvious. That’s why it’s so important to be cautious and kind around each other.

 

Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has to break through the wall of depression every morning when they wake up. No one wears a sign on their forehead about their mood, or a warning sign to let others know they should back off a little. Walking into an environment like the one Latin became on Tuesday could damage them in ways that are hard to imagine. There’s no way of telling how that could affect someone’s recovery or how far back it could set them.

 

My struggle with depression started in sixth grade. I went from being bullied, to being the bully, to not having any friends at all, to starting high school in just three years. I was encouraged to believe that ninth grade would be the light at the end of my tunnel and a fresh start was all I really needed to feel “normal” again. For a few months, it was great. I felt stable for the first time in years. Then, in the way it always does, my depression crept back into my life, unnoticed until it consumed every part of me. I distanced myself from the few friends I had made and stayed at home whenever I wasn’t at school. I stopped doing the things that made me happy and snapped at those who I knew cared about me. Anxiety became a problem too. My hands would shake and I would often hide in the bathroom until the worst of it passed. I worried every second of every day that the people around me hated me and I wasn’t good enough. That battle between not caring at all and caring too much tore me apart. I started self-harming, hating myself and those around me, because I didn’t know how else to deal with all of it.

 

The most dangerous part of all of this was that it went unnoticed for so long. People would say things, usually jokingly, that would kill me inside and not even realize it. No one stopped to ask if I was really doing okay, or if “okay” was good enough. Even when I started doing drugs habitually and drinking way too much alcohol, people thought I was just being a moody high school kid. Eventually, I was lucky enough to have someone that suggested I seek help and supported me throughout the process. Not everyone gets that chance, though.

 

I can’t even imagine how much worse my depression would have gotten if I had been targeted by the comments made on Yik Yak. It’s hard enough dealing with a chemical imbalance in my brain with medication and talk therapy. Being bullied on top of that, like I was when I was younger, would have made feeling comfortable at school impossible. For some people, that’s what happened after Tuesday. Walking down the halls became a nightmare because there was no way of telling who really cared about them and who wanted to hurt them. Going to school, a place we cherish for it’s high spirits and loving relationships, became dreadful.

Tuesday was a prime example of the “bystander effect.” The more people involved in the situation, the less likely anyone was to stand up against it. Whether or not you were posting on Yik Yak, we were all responsible for the extremely hurtful comments that were made by having the app and not taking a stand.

 

I have faith in the Latin community, though. We aren’t perfect, we’re still teenagers, but we have more than enough potential to realize the harm that was caused and to take action to help each other heal. The flip side of all of this is now we know that there is more than enough room to grow. Here are a few steps we can take, as an entire family of Latin students, to care for each other.

 
  1. Be kind to one another. It really is that simple.

  2. Look for warning signs. Obviously not everyone is clinically depressed, but looking out for that possibility could save someone’s life.

  3. Ask how you can help a friend you see going through hard times. Don’t accuse them of being depressed or try to diagnose them yourself, just offer your support.

  4. If someone is suffering from depression, don’t pity them. Mental health illnesses do not define people, they are just another struggle someone has to work to overcome. Don’t treat them as “depressed people,” but rather as “a person with depression.”

  5. Give them space. Once you have offered your support, you have done your part and don’t need to smother them. If they ask for you to be there, then do so, otherwise let them breathe.

  6. Never, ever blame them. The worst thing you can do is tell a person who has depression that it’s their fault. You wouldn’t blame someone who has cancer, so there’s no reason to do it here.

  7. Only offer advice or your own opinion when asked for it. Listening is plenty.

  8. If they mention self harm or suicide at all, tell a trusted adult. Keeping it to yourself is never worth the risk.

  9. If you are suffering, remember that asking for help is not a burden in any way. Your well being is more important than anything else, and again, it’s never worth the risk to try to make it on your own. Also, remember that anxiety and depression are very treatable. It can get better, and asking for help is the first step.

  10. Again, and most importantly, be kind to one another. Help restore Latin to the loving and welcoming place it truly is.

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