Roar: The Podcast | Episode 4: Teens break down the stigmas around mental health


Roar: The Podcast | Episode 4

Welcome back to Roar: The Podcast! In this episode, freshmen Olivia Stafford and Karleigh Osenbaugh discuss the stigmas that come with diagnosis of mental illness as a minor.  

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  • Olivia Stafford, freshman
  • Karleigh Osenbaugh, freshman

Edited by Melina Kritikopoulos


Olivia: Hello everyone and welcome to Santa Clara High School’s Roar: The Podcast.
I’m Olivia, and I’m a freshman at SCHS.

Karleigh: I’m Karleigh. I’m a freshman at SCHS. What we’re going to talk about is how being young affects how people respond to the conversation about mental health. Personally, for me, being young and struggling with mental illnesses and stress in general and handling a lot of that heavy stuff has been kind of stigmatized when it comes to talking about it with adults. What about you, Olivia?

Olivia: I definitely feel the same way you do, Karleigh. I’ve had experiences with mental health myself. When you talk about if you’re really having a hard time and people will just tell you like, “Oh, you’re young. You’re just going through puberty, or you’re only a teen once – just be happy.” All that kind of stuff. It’s stigmatized, like you said, and it’s kind of pushed down. People don’t really look into it just because you’re a teen.

Karleigh: Yeah, they say things like, “Just be happy, you’re so young, or you have your whole life ahead of you, or everyone feels this way at one point in their life. Get over it” and stuff like that. But mental health isn’t something you can just get over. It’s something you struggle with time and time again, and it’s something you have to work towards overcoming. Especially with things like depression and diagnosed anxiety and stuff like that. I don’t know if you’ve been told this, but when I talk to adults or older family members and tell them about my trauma, they’ll be like, “You’re so brave, or you’re so mature for your age,” as if my trauma is some sort of blessing or somehow beneficial to my lifestyle.

Olivia: Same thing has happened to me. When I was a kid – because I went through some things – I was told, “Oh, you’re so mature for your age, you’re so grown up, you speak like an adult, wow you’re so…”. You’re just like, I was seven and I was told I acted like an adult. A seven year old shouldn’t be told that “You’re so mature for your age” and that “You’re such an adult.” What happened to me wasn’t a blessing in my life.

Karleigh: Yeah, also with, especially now as we’re teenagers, there’s a lot of stereotypes. Like being emo or being angsty, kind of discrediting mental health issues that a lot of children struggle with. Saying, like you said, how we’re just hormonal or it’s just puberty and stuff like that. But a lot of the time, kids are feeling things they can’t explain very well. Especially younger children. They go through stuff they’re not able to articulate and get out to the world. And so saying that they’re young and they’re just having a hard time sometimes discredits the severity of their issues.

Olivia: Yeah, the emo phase is just like, “Oh, you’re emo and depressed and suicidal. Oh, it’s just a phase you’re gonna get over it.” But mental health isn’t a phase. An emo phase can be the result of that, but an emo phase is the clothing, style, how you dress, how you look, and how you act. You know what I mean, right?

Karleigh: Yeah, it’s sometimes heavily influenced by your emotions. So although it’s sometimes a stereotype, it’s definitely still valid if someone’s going through an “emo phase.” But I think telling all kids that if they’re struggling with mental issues, that they’re having an emo phase is just so insensitive and inconsiderate of the way that they could be feeling.

Olivia: Yeah, if a child comes to you and tells you, “Oh I’m feeling sad. I’m feeling depressed,” I really feel like you should get them help. Help a kid, and then young kids, like 12 year olds, 13 year olds, and some of the doctors tell them you’re just going through your emo phase, you’re grunge, you’re aesthetic. That really makes the kid feel even worse about themselves.

Karleigh: Yeah, for sure. I also think a lot of parents, too, kind of sugarcoat those things. I feel like a lot of children aren’t very educated and aware of these issues, and I think it needs to be talked about. I think that kind of stigma needs to be broken down because breaking down that kind of stigma will help lots of teenagers and lots of children be able to get the help that they need in order to get through those struggles, so they’re not going through it alone, you know?

Olivia: Yeah, and we definitely need to make more mental health resources that normalize to teens like, “Oh, it’s okay to get help. It’s okay.” Even though people tell you that your mental health is not valid – you’re just sad. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to ask for therapy or ask to be on meds to get the help you need instead of being constantly discredited. We need to make that more normalized and not discrediting the teens that have real raw emotion, you know?

Karleigh: Yeah, I agree. I don’t know, sometimes when I talk to adults about my depression, and stuff like that, or my anxiety, and all of those struggles that we go through, they say that “You’re just sad, or that you’re nervous,” and it’s not as severe as depression sounds like saying that you’re just sad. It kind of takes away from how serious it can be for some people, especially children. It’s hard to deal with those emotions at a young age if you’re not educated, if you’re not aware of what’s happening. I think that adults telling you that your feelings are just being sad. Iit’s regular for you to feel like this can be harmful sometimes. It’s being sad, it happens, it happens all the time, but being depressed is more severe, and it takes a larger toll on you as you grow up and as time goes on.

Olivia: Exactly, we need to find the difference between being just sad. Having actually medically diagnosed depression, I have my experiences with depression for a long time. Because of the stigmas that ran around, I thought I was just sad, and I thought this was normal to have a hard time. But having suicidal thoughts on a daily basis and wanting to harm yourself, that’s not a normal thing a teenager should go through, but because of the stigmas around me, I thought that was normal. I would talk to my parents about it, well not my parents, but [adults] I knew, and they’d be like, “Oh, you’re just impressionable because of your friends. They have their mental illnesses, so you think you do too, but you’re just sad. You don’t actually have that. Or it’s because of that phone. The social media you’re on. Your social media is making you sad.” It’s always because it’s how adults always say they blame it on the phone when it can really be from something else, like unhealed trauma, or God knows what else, you know?

Karleigh: Yeah, I agree. I don’t like how teenagers – not teenagers – but stereotypes around teenagers wanting to fit in. Of course you want to fit in, but then saying… blaming your child’s mental illnesses on their surroundings solely being like, “Oh, it’s because your friends are sad, that means you’re sad,” or like, “Your friends are going through something, so you’re going through something.” It’s not always like that. I think it’s different for everyone. I think it’s a conversation that everyone needs to have. And it’s something that you need to be open minded towards because being open minded about mental health really helps people, and it makes it easier for people who are struggling to maybe work through that because it’s hard for some people, especially now with COVID and being alone. Everyone’s going through a hard time right now as people say because of the pandemic. It kind of takes away from how a lot of teenagers are feeling, and it kind of contributes to that stigma already. It’s so harmful for children and teenagers because you don’t always know what you’re going through, especially if it’s not common for people to talk about it all the time. It’s difficult and it hurts for some people.

Olivia: I completely agree. There’s so many teens out there on TikTok. You’ll see teens openly talking on how they feel depressed and they want to get diagnosed, but they don’t because their parents are not open to it, or they’re not open-minded, or they feel like they’ll be judged and discredited for the way they feel. About mental health, we kind of covered that and sad and stuff like that, but it makes it hard to reach out because of their parents. Parents have a lot to do with it too. If your parents aren’t open-minded, it’ll make you 10 times more not wanting to reach for help.

Karleigh: Yeah, there’s also… you get nervous for presentations and stuff like that. I think talking about… some people are like, “Oh, I get major anxiety from presenting.” I think talking about medically diagnosed anxiety and teen anxiety that you get from social activity and stuff like that should really be talked about because it kind of adds on to those stigmas that “Oh, teens are anxious because of so and so” – and it’s so common – but I think that also takes away from the severity of people who struggle with hardcore anxiety and medically diagnosed anxiety and have to… it’s a daily struggle for those people and being told that it’s just teen anxiety is another harmful thing. Talking about this kind of stuff could be the difference between getting help and struggling with it forever, or what feels like forever. It could be the difference between God knows what, you know?

Olivia: Yeah. I’ve had my personal experiences with anxiety. When I was in fourth grade, I was diagnosed with anxiety. It affected me on a daily basis. This isn’t teens but still. I felt super nauseous and I would wanna throw up super badly, and I couldn’t concentrate in school. I couldn’t do anything properly because I was so anxious with everything. Medically diagnosed anxiety really affects your day-to-day life. Medically diagnosed depression, it’s not some sort of “Oh, you’re anxious ‘cause of a presentation or ‘cause you have to talk when the teacher calls on you.” No, it’s literally a mental illness. It’s a struggle that people didn’t ask for but they got anyway.

Karleigh: Yeah. Or tests. I get tests can really mess with your emotions, but I think being nervous and worried about your grades due to a test is a lot different than being anxious and going through the struggles of anxiety due to something as common as a test because it affects people. Take a “normal teenager” who’s pretty mentally stable and you put them in a stressful situation, they’re more likely to overcome it with flying colors. Whereas people with mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or depression and anxiety and other kinds of mental illnesses and disorders, really have to struggle with it. It’s being discredited due to these stigmas and stereotypes.

Olivia: That’s like bipolar disorder, “Oh you just have mood swings,” blaming it on mood swings. Bipolar can induce mania episodes or extreme highs and lows, and it can really affect somebody’s life in a horrible way and drive them into the street with a God complex saying, “Oh, I can’t die. I have a God complex. I’m God.” People around them are like, “Oh, I feel like I have a God complex. I’m so pretty.” It’s not that God complexes can be seriously harmful to someone – don’t encourage a God complex if it’s really really bad. I know people that have bipolar disorder, and they tell me about how it affects them, how it messes with their brain, how even the medications for it don’t sometimes help, and if they didn’t get help for it, they would’ve been worse off. The stigmas make it a lot harder to reach for help, especially kids with depression, there’s psychotic depression, all that stuff. It’s like they can say, “Oh you’re just sad” to a kid, and they might end up having psychotic depression you know? Manic depression, you can’t just brush that off. You have to be open minded – we have to normalize it – because how else are kids gonna get help?

Karleigh: Yeah, I agree. Getting help, especially with kids, they’re like, “Oh, just talk to your friends about it” and stuff like that. Talking to friends is great for comfort, but getting actual help is good for working through suppressed trauma and mental issues and things that are a lot deeper than being uncomfortable and going through emotional stuff like being sad or being angry and stuff that is common. It happens to everyone everyday. It’s probably happened to you today, or me today. Going through struggling with the symptoms of a mental illness or a mental disorder is so much more severe than just being sad. I think a lot of kids actually will mistake their emotions for symptoms of mental illness. We don’t 100% understand what we’re going through. For us, this is first-hand experience, or it could be something you’ve been going through, but you’re still learning about and you’re still getting used to it. This conversation about mental health, we’re very open minded to it, but I think a lot of older people who grew up with a more closed minded mindset don’t really understand how severe it is in children. Nowadays, in teenagers with these mental illnesses, it’s important to overcome those stigmas and those misconceptions and really allow an open table and open conversation for everyone.

Olivia: Like you said, just talk to your friends thing. Your friends are nice to talk to and they can help you out and they can make you feel better, but they’re not licensed therapists and they’re not medical professionals. Therapists, psychiatrists, they go and they give you coping skills and medication or whatever so you can work through your unresolved trauma. Friends help but only to a certain extent. Therapists can do way more. Older people like millennials, boomers, Gen X, they all… mental health was definitely not talked about when they were kids. Definitely not as much as it is now. It is being talked about more now, especially in 2020, but back then, they didn’t talk about it, so that’s why they’re so… they might end up being open minded, but they might not be like, “Oh, well we can do this for you” and like, “Oh whatever.” They might just be like “Oh you might be mentally ill, but maybe you’re probably just sad, probably just anxious. It’s not a big deal.” They tell you it’s not a big deal.

Karleigh: In extreme cases, the thing that they say might not be a big deal could be the difference between someone’s life. This stuff is more than difficult. It’s more than I can even explain. Some days, I can’t even get out of bed, I don’t want to eat, I’m just so exhausted and tired and totally drained of energy even from the smallest thing. Luckily, my parents have been very supportive for getting me help and have been trying to get me help, but I’ve worried about children and teenagers who don’t have access to that kind of help. They’re going through it alone. Talking to your parents about what you go through is hard sometimes. It’s scary. It makes me nervous and there’s nothing easy about it, but I would say realizing that you have it, the harder part is working through it. It affects the people around you sometimes.

Olivia: It can definitely affect your friends; they’ll pick up on it. If you have really bad depression, it’s not always that easy to hide. Some people are better at hiding it than others, but there’s always gonna be subtle hints. Especially talking to parents about it, even though it’s scary and it can be nerve wracking, it can get you the help that you really need. I also feel bad for the kids that have mental health issues and they can’t talk to their parents about it and get the help because their parents are toxic. They have bad parents who have inflicted trauma upon them that’s made them this way, so they feel like they can’t talk to anybody about it.

Karleigh: Also, some parents – depending on the way that they grew up – they might not have talked about it, and it’s important to talk about this. We’ve said that like a million times, but it really is important. I think we really do need to put emphasis on how vital it is to talk to your children and not even just your children but people around you, checking up on them, making sure that they’re okay because struggling with these issues is more than anyone can really understand, even for the person struggling with it. It’s more than they can explain sometimes. For a lot of people, they’re experiencing things for the first time, or they’re realizing things for the first time. I didn’t realize that I had depression until I was in like sixth grade. I just thought, “Oh, this is life. I’m going through it, but it’s okay.” But it’s not okay. It’s more than just being sad. I think had I not gotten help, I would have just kind of been in a slump forever. But like right now, I’ve taken a lot of time to reflect on myself and the things that I go through. Even though I’m not able to get help right now, I’ve been managing, and it’s as hard as it is. Sometimes you have to try your best and getting the help initially really sets the bar for you. It depends on who you get help from. Therapists are different for everyone. Counselors are different for everyone. My counselor, I loved her; she was so great. Had I not met her, I think I would have been struggling a lot harder than I am right now.

Olivia: My experiences with depression, same thing. I didn’t realize it until months later. For a year, there would be days where I couldn’t get out of bed, I was just so tired, I didn’t wanna eat, I didn’t wanna do anything, and I still experience that today. I’ll just have my rough days where I don’t wanna do schoolwork and I don’t wanna get out of bed and I don’t have motivation for anything. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to do anything. I’ll just have my rough days where I don’t want to do schoolwork, or I don’t want to get out of bed – I don’t have motivation for anything. Adults tell you to just get up and do it like it’s not that hard and they’re like, “Just push yourself. Just do it,” but sometimes it’s literally mentally impossible. I went through a period of time where I didn’t do any school work simply because I had no motivation to do it, and it was a really hard time in my life. I was struggling a lot, and I didn’t know how to talk to anyone about it because I felt so… again the stigma, even though we covered it a lot. I had help, but I was really struggling. Then I had all these zeros, and my mom was like, “Oh, just do the schoolwork. Just do it. Just do it.” I felt misunderstood because it’s not that I chose not to do it. I couldn’t. I was trying to keep myself alive. That’s what I was focusing on; that’s what I was putting all my mental energy into. Again, I didn’t realize I had depression until I was actually medically diagnosed. Who knows how long I had it before I got a medical diagnosis. I’m really fortunate to have an actual diagnosis because a lot of kids don’t have that kind of privilege, and with a medical diagnosis, you can get a lot of things. I’m currently in the process of getting a 504 so I can have extra time on my assignments because with severe depression, you lose motivation, so that’s really helpful and I’m really grateful for that.

Karleigh: Yeah. I agree. All in all, having – not having but being open minded to mental health and mental illnesses – go much farther than just depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. There is a large amount of things you could be struggling with – it would take forever for us to go over that, and that can be a whole different podcast – but focusing on more common things, it goes so much further. It goes so much farther than that, and being open minded about all those possibilities because you never know what someone is going through. You should be considerate about the things you say and the things you do. In general, but especially for these people. It’s important, and it needs to be talked about.

Olivia: I used to not be very empathetic. Well, I have always been pretty empathetic, but I would talk to people whenever they pissed me off or made me upset, and I would just be so mean to them, like a normal sixth graderwho was very immature. When I realized you never know what someone’s going through even if they’re being a little harsh, just always have some kindness in your heart because you never know what they’re going through. You never know what kind of mental issues they could be struggling with like I had. He was a friend – I forgot his name – but he would ignore me for days on end, just wouldn’t talk to me, and then he’d like to talk about really depressing things. I’d be like, “Why talk about such depressing things?” This is before I got diagnosed with depression, but he wouldn’t tell me. Then I would get upset with him. I’m like, “Don’t talk to me. I don’t want to talk about this kind of depressing stuff.” One day he tried to attempt suicide, and that’s when I realized, “Oh, he’s depressed. I should have been way more considerate and noticed the signs before I just judged him right away.”

Karleigh: I think being less judgmental and less harsh around this subject is so important. I’m so glad that I’ve taken the time to educate myself on this kind of topic and to be open minded about the things that people are going through because it’s important and it’s different for everyone. My experiences with depression could be so much more different with someone else’s experiences with depression. It’s important to recognize that.

Olivia: Yeah, and so ever since that day, I have been more considerate of people and what they’re going through because I feel like we talked about there’s so many more mental illnesses than just anxiety and depression. It could be a possible other podcast to talk about the ranges of mental illnesses and the kind of side effects and what to look for and notice in someone so you can pick up on what they’re going through and reach out and see if they need help. But again with teens, the stigmas. With adults, I feel like it’s easier for them and the sort of mental health way. I don’t mean to discredit adults in that kind of way. But because they’re adults in it, people see… you see more mentally ill adults in movies and TV shows than teens. Do you know what I’m talking about? Does that make sense?

Karleigh: Yeah, it does. With adults, I feel like you have the resources – not always, you don’t always have the resources – but I feel like a lot of them have the resources to get help. Whereas with kids, you have to rely on your guardians to get that help, and sometimes they don’t. They aren’t always open to it. It really just depends if you’re able financially to get that help because it can be really expensive. It’s just be considerate and be open minded about this kind of stuff.

Olivia: Yeah. There’s a lot of factors that contribute to that.

Karleigh: Yeah, I think we went over a lot.

Olivia: Yeah we went over a lot. We were jumping from topic to topic, but it’s important to realize, really important to cover that stuff.

Karleigh: So that concludes this episode of Roar: The Podcast. We thank you so much for listening, and we hope you’ll share this and future episodes with your community. Until next time!