Jesi Abney – Louisiana Nomination & Photography by Jennifer Abney Photography Issue 64 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
Hi, my name is Jesi Abney, and I am a member of Inspiring Teens Issue 64. Imagine sitting in a room filled with a hundred people but feeling all alone or feeling so overwhelmed you are paralyzed by fear and cannot finish even a simple task. These are only a few feelings people experience when having a mental health crisis. Having experienced feelings of depression, loneness, anxiety and contemplating suicide myself, I knew it was time to share my story and help other young adults. I created E.P.I.C., Every Person is Crucial, which is an outreach to young adults by sharing my story in hopes that if I save just one life, I have succeeded. I have found that it is not enough to tell someone that “you are there for them” or that “they are not alone.” The stigma of embarrassment or that someone is only seeking attention is very real when talking about mental health.
According to the CDC, 1 in 3 high school students have experienced or are experiencing a mental health crisis. In 2022, Suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 10-30. What are we doing as a community to turn this around? We have parents who say their children are not “really” having a mental health issue, they are simply seeking attention. We have a society who looks at those who experience depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts as weird, different, or not normal. According to the 2022 study by the World Health Organization, ninety percent of the world’s population experienced detrimental effects to their mental health during the pandemic. What are we doing about this trend that keeps growing, specifically among our young adults? Our society must open the doors to honest conversations with those experiencing mental health crisis without any judgement. It is vital that we are truly listening and are seeing the behaviors that are among our family and friends. We ask people all the time “How are you doing?” but are we really seeking to understand how someone is or is this just a bunch of words that we really do not seek the answer to understand.
I have found with E.P.I.C. sharing my story has opened conversations with young adults to share their own. I can lead them to a trusted adult who can help them. I have been fortunate that I have a family who listened without judgement and helped me find avenues to deal with these mental health pressures. Between the constant comparisons and challenges to keep up with the pressure to perform on social media; the expectation of being “always on” that comes with technology, and instantaneous communication are all worsening the mental health with our children, and teens. Young people today are being challenged in ways that are unimaginable and we have parents who are too consumed by their own lives or dealing with mental health issues themselves. This produces children who are lost with nowhere to turn. Our school mental health providers are overworked and simply cannot reach every child in need. Let’s face it, if you are waiting for a child to seek you out for help, it will NOT happen. We all have a responsibility to help. I challenge everyone, reach out to your local mental illness organizations and join task force to help change the stigma and judgement of mental health in our society. Because every person is crucial, I invite teens to use my social impact initiative E.P.I.C. in your own schools and communities to open the door to honest communication without judgement. Communication and education can change the world, and these are the two vital steps needed to change mental health today.
References: Gilison, Daniel. “The Crisis of Youth Mental Health.” NAMI, National Alliance of Mental Illness. April 19, 2022. www.nami.org.
Brunier, Alison & Drysdale, Carla. “COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide: Wake-up call to all countries to step up mental health services and support.” World Health Organization. March 2, 2022. www.who.int.
Centers of Disease Control. “Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 31, 2022. www.cdc.gov.