Cutting, purging, binging, substance abuse: Teens struggle, look for help to deal with depression, pressures of school, life, relationships

Andrea Mendes

*Names in this article have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved. All individuals in this article have sought help in dealing with their problems. If you or someone you know is in need of help, please reach out to the appropriate people.

In today’s society, social pressures and stigmas can be mounting. This is especially true for high school students, who are at a young, impressionable age, and are just beginning to figure out who they are and who they want to be in life. For many, the stress associated with growing up, how they are perceived by others, and their status among their peers can cause significant psychological effects.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for students to have, at one point or another, experienced depressing thoughts or views about themselves and their lives. At a time when students should be enjoying some of the best years of their lives in high school, many are barely drudging through the days. For a large portion of students, this depressing attitude will come and go with the fluctuations of life, but for some, depression engulfs their entire being.

“I think teenagers often think they are the only person struggling with dark thoughts and they feel very isolated and alone,” Hyunh Yu said. “That’s one of the most important things I hope other teens know – you aren’t the only one who feels the way you do. It might be depression, it might be self esteem or self image, but no one has a perfect life.”

Many have turned to internally ridiculing and blaming themselves for their lack of happiness, which is associated with feelings of helplessness and causes an overall increase in anxiety and in some cases extreme panic attacks.

“I remember the first time it happened, it was like someone put a ton of bricks on my chest and told me to breathe,” Emma Lay said. “There was this overwhelming sense of panic and I didn’t know where it was coming from. All I could feel was the weight of everything that was going on and all I could do was cry until the tears stopped. Even after they did, nothing really felt right.”

For others, self mutilation in the form of binging and purging by means of food, anorexia, and cutting, provides an exterior outlet to coping with the pressures they feel and the dissatisfaction with themselves.

“Sometimes when you feel so much pain and hurt, but it’s not tangible, cutting seems to make more sense, because it gives a person a physical reason for the pain.” Yu said. “Looking back on it, and even in the moment, I knew it wouldn’t help solve the problem and would only complicate things more, but it just kind of happened.”

The use of prescription and nonprescription drugs also aids in students who attempt to self medicate for their problems and acts as another form of coping with the stresses of life.

“[My drug use] started as something I did on the weekend with my friends, and as the year went on I was using [drugs] 2-3 times a week and then it was an everyday [things],” Julie Stark said. “I would come home, get high and sleep the majority of the time I wasn’t at school.”

A lack of feeling of control acts as a prime motivator for students to turn inward and pursue methods of things to control some aspect of their lives. Simultaneously, they may feel a sense of embarrassment and continue to turn inward and away from their peers and families.

“I saw cuts all over my sisters legs and I couldn’t describe to you the hurt I felt inside,” Rose Harmas said. “Some of the scars were healed and others new, and that was really difficult for me. The realization that this had been going on for some time really hit deep. I remember both of us crying on her bed and her explaining how badly she wanted to fit in and look like everyone else, in that moment I felt the pain she had been going through for years.”

Often times those who display no signs of struggle or seem to have it “all together”, are struggling the most. Admitting there is a problem is one of the most significant aspects to someone’s battle, and often times, problems go unnoticed by those around them.

“I knew I had to process my emotions and find a way out of the darkness, but I wasn’t sure how,” Yu said. “It took me, in a moment of clarity and prayer, reaching out to another person and telling them what was going on. That was scary, but it made a world of a difference.”

Social networking websites such as Tumblr and Twitter have taken to glamorizing self harm and depression, featuring numerous photos suggesting mutilation of the body. The depiction of such serious subject matter in a “pretty way”, on a media site open to younger kids, has caused self harm to become “accepted” or a “fad” among young people.

“I don’t really like seeing other people cutting or blood in the pictures on Tumblr.” Alexis Mob said. “It upsets me even more because I’ve done it before and its not pretty or cool, it hurts much deeper than the cuts in the pictures show.”

The most important aspect in beginning a journey to recovery is reaching out to someone and expressing what’s wrong. By opening up, suffering individuals are no longer alone and are able to face any problem head on with the support of family and friends.

“It’s so important to have people in your life to talk to. People who you can trust.” Yu said. “People who will listen and be there for you when you are struggling. It’s also important that the people you are closest to have a central focus that matches up to where you ultimately want to go.”

It’s important for those who are struggling with depression and various forms of self destruction to know they are not alone. It’s never too late to change the course of your life and help is just a conversation away.

“The biggest thing I hope people who struggle come to realize is that they don’t have to deal with their problems alone,” Yu “Friends, family, and God with help them carry the burden of what they are going through. There’s never a lost cause. There’s never a time when a person’s life isn’t worth fighting for.”