The election of a new NYC mayor, Bill de Blasio, has generated a lot of hope at the end of this difficult year, 2013. It was a rough year for many—Hurricane Sandy devastated the lives of many people, and the depressed economy continues to make life difficult for most citizens. The prospect of a new mayor with new priorities is bringing hope to many who have given up the whole idea of hoping.
But an even more inspiring event happened during the holiday season: de Blasio’s daughter, Chiara, stepped into the spotlight and began talking about a very important subject—mental health. This 19-year-old has showed a great strength of character and a good deal of wisdom in stepping up and taking responsibility for her feelings and her struggles along the way. She speaks for a large majority—those who feel depressed and often resort to medicating their problems because they appear unbearable.
By speaking out about depression and self-medication, she is teaching all of us a very important lesson—sharing your struggles will help you to bear them. And sharing your struggles will help other people to deal with their feelings of despair.
Freud described therapy as “the talking cure.” It is somewhat miraculous that when humans share their burdens, the burdens become lighter and easier to carry. When people come together with empathic others, in therapy, in groups like AA and Alanon, they find the strength to feel their feelings, and learn strategies to help them manage. An added bonus is that when we empathize with others and reach beyond ourselves we can feel enriched and resourceful because we have the power to help.
The organization Chiara de Blasio is suggesting for teenagers is OK2Talk. The stated goal of this organization is to “…create a community for teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems and encourage them to talk about what they’re experiencing by sharing their personal stories of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope.” Young people can feel very isolated. They may imagine that everyone else is happy, that there is something wrong with them for feeling depressed, and so they often keep their problems to themselves. The tragedy of that is that we all have feelings, and we often feel the social pressure to be “fine.” But no one is totally “fine,” and no one is without sadness, anger, and frustration.
Being able to share deep feelings should start in childhood and should always be a right that children have within their family. For teenagers, an organization like OK2Talk is a wonderful idea. Having a community of your peers who are going through the same or similar struggles is a terrific resource—something we should all support.
I applaud this amazing young woman. She is a terrific role model for us all.
*This post originally appeared on the authors website.
About the Author
Eileen Johnson, author of forthcoming paperback The Children’s Bill of Emotional Rights.