Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 29th 2016 Contents When she was 22, Rachel Star Withers uploaded
a video to YouTube called Normal: Living With
Schizophrenia. It starts with her striding across
her family s property in Fort Mill, SC. She looks
across the rolling grounds, unsmiling. Her eyes are
narrow and grim.
She sits down in front of a deserted white cottage
and starts sharing. "I see monsters. I see myself
chopped up and bloody a lot. Sometimes I ll be walk-
ing, and the whole room will just tilt. Like this," she
grasps the camera and jerks the frame crooked. She
surfaces a fleeting grin. "Try and imagine walking."
She becomes serious again. "I m making this
because I don t want you to feel alone, whether
you re struggling with any kind of mental illness or
At the time, 2008, there were very few people
who had done anything like this online. "As I got
diagnosed [with schizophrenia], I started researching
everything. The only stuff I could find was like every
horror movie," she says. "I felt so alone for years."
She decided that schizophrenia was really not that
scary. "I want people to find me and see a real person."
Over the past eight years, she has made 53 videos
documenting her journey with schizophrenia and
depression, and her therapy. And she is not the only
one. There are hundreds of videos online of people
publicly sharing their experiences with mental ill-
In her early videos, Withers glowers. She tried to
give off an aura of toughness befitting the daughter
of a Hell s Angel biker. But there s also a sense that
terror is a deep undercurrent in her life. "All right,
let s go," she says in the video Watch If You Forget,
where she documents getting electroconvulsive ther-
apy for depression. Then, in the next few seconds,
"I m about to start the electroshock therapy and,
yeah, I m pretty nervous."
Things have changed a lot since then. Now, almost
all her videos open with Withers flicking her black
curls, arms raised with swagger: "Hey, what s up!
I m Rachel Star!"
That public sharing of mental illness might be
making a huge impact on the way Americans view
these disorders, especially for those who are digital
natives. Millennials tend to be more comfortable
talking about mental health issues, according to a
poll released Jan. 14 by the Anxiety and Depression
Association of America, along with two national sui-
cide prevention foundations.
When it came to seeing a mental health profes-
sional, for instance, 48 per cent of survey respondents
between the ages of 18 and 34 said that it was a sign
of strength. About 35 per cent of all prior generations
felt the same way.
"Our young people are accepting that mental
health problems exist, and they want help for it, and
they are not looking at these things as something
to be ashamed of," says Anne Marie Albano, a clinical
psychologist at Columbia University who is on the
board for the ADAA.
She thinks that social media and videos like With-
ers have helped lower stigma around mental illnesses.
"Young people take advantage of this," Albano says.
"It gives the opportunity for people to tell their
stories and post images. This allows them to feel
more hope than prior generations."
There might be other reasons young people are
less concerned about stigma surrounding mental ill-
ness. Perhaps as you age, your outlook becomes
more pessimistic, says John Naslund, a PhD candidate
at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and
Clinical Practice who studies social media and mental
health. He notes that the ADAA poll found that a
higher percentage of older adults than young people
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, January 29, 2016
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Role: incumbent is required to manage the delivery and support of information system services to
the Ministry of National Security and to deliver high quality customer service to its internal and
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YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
didn t believe that something like suicide could be
prevented. "Maybe they ve been through this before
and have had people close to them take their own
He hopes things really are getting better. "It s
very possible. That would be a very exciting change
in the way society views mental illness," Naslund
says. But the problem has not been solved. Even if
information moves quickly, change is slow. "It s
really important to acknowledge that people who
have a serious mental disorder still face a lot of stig-
ma," he says. (NPR)
Would you tell the world you
have schizophrenia on YouTube?
Rachel Star Withers says that
video blogging about
schizophrenia and depression
has helped her manage the
disorders. PHOTO COURTESY
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