Connecting The Dots | Teen Ink

Connecting The Dots

May 16, 2023
By amichaels24, New York, New York
amichaels24, New York, New York
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It’s easy to talk about mental health in general, as something that affects other people, but the conversation gets harder when problems are closer to home. When I was 13, I lost my father to cancer. In the days and then weeks and months that followed, I dealt with my own feelings of loss and frustration as well as the complicated experience of learning about my father’s struggle with addiction three decades earlier. There were times when I felt like my grief was normal, and there were times when I felt crazy, and it wasn’t always easy to tell the difference between the two. In high school, I have watched many of my friends struggle with anxiety and depression and try to draw a line between ordinary experience and mental illness that isn’t always clear. While I am fortunate to have a support system and safe spaces that make me feel seen and heard, many of my peers do not have the same resources, and they have suffered as a result.

This realization led me to create Connecting The Dots, an online publication that uses personal stories to explore the science behind mental health. The purpose of this publication is to create a sense of community among young people who are dealing with mental illness and addiction, as well as to help them understand the science behind their experiences. The goal is to both support and inform, so that readers feel less alone in their own struggles and better equipped to decide when to seek help. .

Connecting the Dots aims to fill a gap in the online conversation about psychological wellness. When I started researching grief, addiction, and other mental health-related issues, I found that websites focused on the science of mental health often don’t feel accessible to teens like me, while blogs that share personal stories rarely touch on neuroscience or clinical practices.

I hope my publication will fill a niche for its basic mission: to make the science of mental health accessible to teens while providing them with a sense of community.

The conversation around mental health, particularly among teens, is shaped by stigma on one side and ignorance on another. Sometimes it feels like people my age are both afraid to confront the possibility of mental illness in their own lives and encouraged by social media to pathologize normal experiences. Connecting the Dots strikes a different tone by presenting honest accounts of mental illness in fact-based ways. Each of the six people I’ve interviewed for the publication so far recounts their personal struggle with conditions such as depression, addiction, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and stress. These conversations and my outside research have convinced me that mental health is shaped by both the internal and external, our neurobiology and our experiences. Learning about mental health and addiction through the lens of neuroscience helped me understand these conditions as disorders of the brain rather than as character flaws or personality quirks. My perspective has been shaped not just by the act of sharing our stories, but also by developing the kind of concrete knowledge that relieves the shame and stigma surrounding mental illness. Mental illness is a condition, a field of study, and a public health issue. Above all, though, it is an experience. By sharing our own experiences with mental health, we can improve the experiences of others.

Alexandra M.

Connecting The Dots

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