Hats off to The Communicator, the student-run online and print newspaper at Community High in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The staff are not afraid to print controversial articles about dress codes that discriminate against young women and recently penned an op-ed piece in The New York Times, detailing their fight to help end the stigma against depression. This talented group also write about local and global issues, more than just the prom (which was what we mainly covered in my school newspaper!), although they write about that, too! They also raise the money to print the newspaper by holding fundraisers.
I am so impressed with these students because I know how hard it can be just to get a student-run newspaper off the ground. I was on the newspaper staff (back in the 1990s!), and when our high school switched principals, he decided to cancel funding for the school newspaper. A dedicated teacher somehow managed to wrangle a deal in which she could still teach the class (an elective), and we would raise the money ourselves for the newspaper. So, we did. We asked local businesses to buy ads in our paper, and we sold our issues for 50 cents each (if memory serves). We managed to pull together a monthly paper — of course, only print back then! — and I have always been proud to have been part of that effort.
Another reason I think The Communicator and the students at Community High deserve praise is because of their efforts to end the stigma against depression and other “controversial” forms of mental illness. As an adult with chronic depression, I know how hard it is to even tell a family member that I have the illness. As soon as I say, “I was diagnosed with depression back in 2007,” an ambiguous look comes over most people’s faces, a mixture of surprise, sadness, and (am I imagining this?) disbelief. Regardless of what they are thinking, it doesn’t compare to the thoughts racing through MY head — “They think I’m weird, they think I’m being melodramatic, I just want to take pills and make everything okay, I’m looking for an easy answer, I’m going to freak out and throw myself under a bus…” The fact that I feel ashamed and secretive about my depression, that I have these assumptions at all, shows me just how ingrained the stigma is against it — never mind bipolar disorder or, heaven-forbid, an eating disorder!
So, I know how much courage it takes to admit you have a mental illness — AND to be willing to do it when you’re in high school and to your peers AND strangers who would undoubtedly have read the issue, that takes sheer guts! My hat is off to all the students at Community High who are willing to put themselves on the line and take a stand!
P.S. This is a great website to help you find a counselor in your area if you just need someone neutral to talk to about how you’re feeling.