I Am Depressed | Dianna Paige | TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool


Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Raissa Mendes I would like to start off
with a trigger warning, because I find them to be
incredibly important. Over the course of this presentation, I will be talking about personal
struggles with mental illness, which will venture into topics including
anxiety, depression, and suicide. If you feel uncomfortable
at any point throughout this talk, it is both welcomed and encouraged
that you leave the room to get some space, take care of yourself. My name is Dianna Paige. I’m 19 years old, and I am depressed. And that is okay. Yes, you heard me correctly. Just as a diabetic has to deal
with managing blood sugar levels and sugar intake, I have to deal with
my depressive symptoms. And that’s not just feeling extra sad
when things go wrong. In fact, it’s feeling sad
for no reason at all. It’s having some days where it’s
incredibly difficult to get out of bed because I don’t see a reason to, or because I was up all night
the night before thinking about this thing
that I should have done but I didn’t because I was too tired,
because I am so tired all the time, or that thing that I could
have done but I didn’t because I felt no motivation to do it, or that third cookie
I shouldn’t have eaten because that’s another 120 calories,
another 12 minutes on the elliptical and I don’t have time to fit that
in my color-coded schedule, or how Maddie never texts me back
and I probably shouldn’t text her again because she’ll think I’m annoying
and she probably hates me, and I don’t know why she wouldn’t
because most of the time I hate me too. But that’s just my depression. I am not my depression,
but it is a part of me, and it has been for the last nine years,
nearly half of my lifetime. It is my illness, and it’s as real
and painful as any physical illness. The brain is an organ
just like anything else. If you leave anxiety or depression
without treatment, just like if you leave any physical
disorder, like cholesterol or diabetes, it doesn’t just go away on its own. And just as people die as a result
of untreated physical illnesses, people also die as a result
of untreated mental illnesses. Suicide happens when pain exceeds
the ability to cope. People don’t kill themselves,
their illness kills them, and that’s difficult
to wrap your head around. People are victims of suicide. The suicide is what kills them,
the illness is what kills them, and these deaths happen more often
than many people recognize. Suicide is the third leading cause
of death among teenagers, and the second among college students, but it shouldn’t take a single death, let alone the 40,000 that happen
each year in the United States alone, to say that this is important. We as human beings are built with minds
that are constantly judging, and that’s okay, it’s natural. But let me put a question on the table: how many negative slang terms
can you think of that are associated with people
with mental illnesses? “Crazy,” “insane,” “weird,” “freak,” “violent,” “psycho,” the list goes on. Now, how many negative
slang terms can you think of that are associated
with people with cancer? There are none. But both of these are illnesses. So, why is it if you suffer
an illness of the mind you’re thought to be irrational, but if you suffer an illness of the body
you’re honorable, courageous, and strong? Mental illnesses are the only illnesses in which we blame the person
suffering for their pain, and this won’t change
unless we talk about it. And we can’t be afraid
or ashamed to talk about this because one in five people
suffer from a mental illness. Mental illnesses are as common
as brown eyes or silver cars, and they’re everywhere, not just in typically assumed
high-risk families and neighborhoods. I grew up in Fairport, New York. Population: 5,300. The small suburb of Rochester I call home is primarily filled
with white middle-class families, therefore making Fairport High School a population of 1,500 primarily
white middle-class students with impressively high graduation rates, a great deal of student involvement
in sports and extracurriculars and award-winning success in academics. One would never walk down the halls
of Fairport High School and think, “There are struggling students
in this environment.” But what society needs to recognize
is that teens are struggling everywhere, even in the most unexpected communities. I learned this firsthand
when I created and led a schoolwide student run
mental health program titled “True Colors,” in my senior year of high school, with the
assistance of my friend Matt Kemp. The True Colors Assembly
was comprised of two parts: the “red line” activity
and “if you really knew me” cards. The red line activity involved
students crossing a line when an announced statement
applied to them. For example, “Cross the line
if your parents are divorced.” But we took these announced statements
past the typical comfort zone enforced in schools, bringing up topics ranging
from self-harm to suicide. Students were able to see
the physical and emotional struggles of their peers during this activity, as well as recognize that they weren’t
alone in their own personal situations. The second activity,
“if you really knew me,” was the portion of the assembly
I often called “my baby.” Each student was given a small card and asked to write down something
that no one knew about them. The cards were written anonymously to ensure students felt no restrictions
regarding what they could write about. In my explanation,
and prompt to the activity, I said something
I could’ve written on a card, “If you really knew me you would know
I struggle with anxiety and body image issues,” in an attempt to lessen the chances
of them taking it as a joke. These are high schoolers after all. I was not hoping nor expecting
the majority of cards to contain secrets of pain, struggle, and mental illness, but that is exactly what we received. These students from middle-class,
suburban neighborhoods were writing about struggles
with anxiety, depression, suicide, physical and emotional abuse,
eating disorders, and many other horrifying
and painful experiences. Why is it acceptable to miss class if you’re in the health center
or nurse’s office, but not the counseling center? Why is looking out
for your physical health encouraged, but your mental health overlooked? When I was in high school,
you could go down to the nurse’s office at any point throughout the day regardless
of whether or not you had class. You can lie on a cot in the corner of the
room for as long as your heart desired if you had a stomachache or a headache,
but if you wanted to talk to a counselor, it had to be by appointment,
and only if you didn’t have class. Like, “Okay, I’ll simply
reschedule my panic attack from third period
to sixth period, no issue there.” How do we fix this broken
mental health system? I have some tips for adults
looking to help teens and teens looking to help themselves. Adults: it starts
with normalizing mental illness, recognizing that it exists
and how prevalent it truly is. A wide variety of professions,
including teaching, require some form of CPR training,
which is important, don’t get me wrong. But how many professions require training
in mental health literacy? One in five people actively struggle
with a mental illness. How often do you have to help
someone who can’t breathe? Educate yourself, even if your job
doesn’t require you to. Trigger warnings – I gave one
at the beginning of this talk. It took what? Thirty seconds? Thirty seconds to ensure
that your audience knows what potentially high-risk
material will be discussed and knows that you care
about their personal well-being. Somehow, it has become controversial to take steps to keep your audience
from having potentially tragic flashbacks in the middle of a lecture, but that is
another discussion to be had. It’s 30 seconds. Take the time. Speaking as a teen, I know
how apprehensive we can be towards what adults have to say to us,
especially if we disagree. When it comes to mental health,
don’t act like you know everything. Maybe you’ve read every book
available at your public library to help you better understand
your son’s depression, but that does not make you
a trained psychologist. If a teen comes to you
looking for support, that’s exactly what they want:
support, not all the answers. So, listen, present yourself as someone
that teens can talk to. Establish that you are trustworthy
and that your door is always open. Announce this, make it known,
and follow through. Sometimes, a listening ear
is all they need, and, sometimes, listening is not enough, and the steps taken
post-listening are critical. While they may come off
as suggestions or trying to help, pushing a struggling teen
to go to the counseling center, or talk to their parents, or go
to in-patient or out-patient services may come off as incredibly threatening. I know these resources
are supposed to be helpful, but getting a struggling teen
or a person of any age to get help is the most difficult step
in the healing process. So, be patient. If a teen is opening up to you about their
deepest and most personal struggles, chances are they don’t want to rush
into handling it all head-on. Obviously, there are emergency situations
in which patience is not an option, but you have to recognize the signs. Does this teen need help
here and now, in this moment, or can it wait? This all goes back
to the importance of education, which is the first step
in the entire process. Teens, if you are actively struggling
with a mental illness, right now, in this moment, I want you to really look at me. I am here, I am breathing. I am struggling, and I understand. You may not be okay right now,
but you will be. Recognize the importance of self-care. I’ve always taken issue with the negative
connotation associated with selfishness. There’s nothing wrong
with putting yourself first. Learn about the coping mechanisms
that work for you. Maybe it’s excise, yoga,
drawing, playing an instrument, watching a horrible romantic comedy. Do whatever you need to do to feel safe,
comfortable, and content with being alive. Sometimes, coping mechanisms
don’t work, and that is okay. That is when it’s important to recognize when you can’t handle things
on your own anymore. And while your best friend
may love and support you, that doesn’t mean that they can treat
your mental illness. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, there are resources out there
that are compassionate and understanding, that you can reach out to. Learn about the resources
you have in your area. Maybe it’s your counseling
center or a helpline. Reach out to them, it can only help. We all have to work together to legitimize
the feelings of today’s youth. We need to talk about this,
or nothing will change. I am standing in front of you today
because I am tired. I am tired of living in a society where,
if your arm is broken, you get a cast, but if your brain is broken,
you get outcast. Over the course of this talk, 20 people around the world
have died by suicide. With proper treatment
and support systems in place, every one of those deaths
could have been prevented. It is the personal responsibility
of every human being to help take a stand and help
raise awareness for mental health. It’s time to end stigma,
start support, and save lives. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

35 comments

  1. I am so proud of you Dianna–thank you for your continued work to educate others and share your story—it is so inspirational!

  2. I have no motivation either and im up all the time thinking about stuff i did wrong I just feel so sad and lonely 😔

  3. Not to sound as though Im trying to oversimplify things but one tool to help lessen depression which has helped me enormously is taking a Vitamin B Complex vitamin Look it up on Internet for yourself.

  4. Correction: 1 in 4 people suffer from mental illness… It's getting worse.
    Isn't that just awful? So many TED talks trying to break down the stigmas of mental illness and depression, yet it's only gotten worse. That's quite sad. Gives a sort of powerless feeling.

  5. Preach!🙏 I have depression and ADD. This ted talk is amazing! That one part where she says "if your arm is broken you get a cast, but if your mind is broken you get outcast" because sadly that is true in America.

  6. This person speaks very well in public. Even if the content is what matters more the way things are said helps a lot

  7. MY LEFT EARPOD JUST BROKE TWO DAYS BEFORE I SAW THIS AND I CAN’T HEAR ANYTHING okay i’m so sad rn 🙁

  8. It’s so hard to find a reason to even get out of bed in the morning, I wish people would understand that sometimes it’s not physically possible to get up.

  9. Show this in schools instead of subjects that have no reality value
    High school students whould benefit from this beautiful girls ex experiences.

  10. “It’s having some days where it’s incredibly difficult to get out of bed because I don’t see a reason to”

    i’m 16 in one week and this is what i’m going through. i don’t know i can call it depression but i feel very lonely. I’ve lost all my motivation, i don’t even have a dream anymore. my life is a all mess. my parents got a divorced, my mom, my siblings and I and living in a hotel. i have a low self esteem. i don’t feel like making friends, nor try to talk. i have a bad relationship with both of my parents. i used to be a straight A student but now i’m a failure. i’m writing this with my eyes full of tears. I’ve watched more than 20 videos about depression last week. when someone asks me how i am/feel, i reply that i’m okay/fine but in my head i say “i’m alive”. However i can’t say it out loud because people will find me weird. not having a purpose in life is really bothering me. my friends don’t understand me. my family doesn’t.

    but i will be happy one day, even if it has to be in 10 years, I will be happy.

  11. "If you're arm is broken you get a cast, but if your brain is broken you get outcast." – Great quote. Powerful speech for such a young girl!

  12. Sometimes i think i’m only showing symptoms of depression because deep down i’m just avoiding responsibilities because i know i’m incompetent and unworthy and lazy.

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