It’s easy to put depression into a box of symptoms, and though we as a society are constantly told mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes, we are stuck with a mental health stock image in our heads that many people don’t match. When we see depression and anxiety in adolescents, we see teens struggling to get by in their day-to-day lives. We see grades dropping. We see involvement replaced by isolation. People slip through the cracks.
We don’t see the student with the 4.0 GPA. We don’t see the student who’s active in choir and theater or a member of the National Honor Society. We don’t see the student who takes on leadership roles in a religious youth group. No matter how many times we are reminded that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, we revert back to a narrow idea of how it should manifest, and that is dangerous.
I was this kid too. As an abuse survivor, I learned very early how to hide in plain sight. I didn’t want anyone to find out what was happening to me, so I knew that keeping up good grades, not doing drugs, not causing trouble meant that no one would ever question what was happening.
That also meant that my abuse and depression didn’t catch up to me until much later in life, and I wasted a lot of years dealing with something I could have dealt with at a younger age. That’s not good. We need to do more to get to survivors, and others with mental health issues, earlier, regardless of whether they fit our stereotypes.