Taryn will wake up this morning to the sound of chirping blue jays and the warmth of the sun beaming across her face. She’ll smell the overwhelming aroma of fresh pancakes and crispy bacon coming from the kitchen. Her dog will hop onto her bed and, with his cold nose and sloppy kisses, ensure that she gets a move on with her day.
Most of the time, Taryn would be up and ready to face the day. Today she isn’t.
Taryn, like 16.2 million more American adults, suffers from depression.
Depression means feeling empty. It means that with every step of the day, comes more and more anxiety over seemingly unimportant things. It means constantly carrying the heavy weight of these emotions everywhere you go.
Taryn doesn’t always have an explanation for her depression. Likewise, she doesn’t always have as strong of a hold over it. Some days it’s quietly there, in the background, manageable. Others she has complete control and it’s no problem at all. Then there are the days that it’s in the forefront of her mind, yelling and screaming that she doesn’t matter. That she’s useless. That she should just quit.
Luckily for Taryn, she has a tremendous support system. At first, her parents were overwhelmed by the motivation to help. They consistently gave the “try to be happy” and “pull yourself together” talks. These talks, as well-intentioned as they may have been, only served to exacerbate Taryn’s feelings of isolation and incompetence. Fortunately, they eventually learned that, in addition to medication and therapy, all Taryn needed was their unconditional love and support.
Take away those parents and friends though, and the battle only gets harder.
Up to 80 percent of youth in foster care suffer from some form of mental illness, while 21.5 percent suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Additionally, 11.4 percent suffer from panic disorders and 9.4 percent are diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder. Whether it be from abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, and/or being separated from their parents, these children have already experienced serious trauma.
Mental illnesses only exacerbate their immense feelings of rejection on loneliness. Therapy and medication can only do so much. That all important “unconditional love and support” can only come from a permanent home.
Bergen County CASA works to ensure that needed services and assistance are consistently made available to these children, while helping to move them toward safe and permanent homes. While by no means a be-all end-all cure for their illness, such a change is still a massive step towards making the battle a little more manageable each and every day.
Mental illness may affect all those who suffer from it differently, but they should all have the same resources to combat it.