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What would you say to you at age 15? Speaking to high school students. Input wanted!

Posted Nov 15 2011 12:00am
Okay, readers and fellow bloggers, I'm going to ask for your input on this one. I am doing a speaking engagement Thursday, for the Great American Teach-In, where I will be talking about mental health with a fellow member of NAMI, at an alternative school, where many of the students have numerous life problems, some of which are mental health problems. I spoke for this same event at this time last year, and I really enjoyed it.

But I want to make sure I do the best job possible. So here is where you come in. For those of you who struggled in high school, or your adolescence at any point, with any mental health problems, or other challenges such as not fitting in or being seen as popular, or faced discrimination or bullying, I want to be able to give some advice. Last year we talked about mental illness facts, and that suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, and the third for high school students, in the U.S. - a horrifying fact. And last year, I told my story, which I will be doing again this year.

But if there were a few particular words you could share to encourage young people who might be struggling with their own illness, which may not be diagnosed, or in some cases may already be diagnosed, and the fear that comes with not understanding what is going on with your own mind....what would those words be?

I also want to make clear that all the assaults of "craziness" and "psycho killer" movies in the common language and the media are part of the problem, because stigma does prevent kids from seeking help when they need help, and that is a terrible fact.

I dealt with Major Depression and Anorexia Nervosa, starting in middle school, and throughout high school (until I dropped out the beginning of my senior year), and into my early twenties. I really suffered through a lot of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and an addiction to cutting for a long time before I ever became psychotic or developed Schizoaffective Disorder. Since most high school students with mental illness are not experiencing psychosis although some will when they get a little older, I will be talking about depression and my eating disorder along with my wild, "crazy" ride through total insanity and psychosis that lasted seven years, undiagnosed.

Do you have any particular thoughts you would like to share with these students? These are kids who are put in this school because they were often expelled from another school in the area, and like any adolescent, they are dealing with the problems and drama of those changing years, along with some poverty, family problems, and in some cases, mental illness. So I want to try to bring some encouragement to them, some advice, some hope, and a glimpse of what recovery can mean, even if you do end up really, really sick.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section with any words you would like to tell the students. If you don't mind, I might even quote you.

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