One of the emerging activists for teen health, Tali Rosen is currently a rising senior at Beacon High School in New York. On May 7, 2020, she published the article “There is No Vaccine for Teenage Despair” in the New York Times, which both raised awareness for teen depression and encouraged teenagers who were suffering from it to open up and pursue help. I was deeply touched by her story and wanted to learn more about her, so I recently conducted an interview with her to probe deeper into this emerging epidemic.
1. Many teens are unable to express their true feelings regarding their depression to anyone, including their own family. Nevertheless, you were able to express your true feelings to your parents and begin mental therapy. What motivated you to open up and what advice would you give to those suffering with depression but are too shy or worried to open their feelings?
I think fear enabled me to talk to my parents. My decision came from fear grounded in my thoughts about harming myself. I hadn’t learned how to deal with my thoughts – to recognize that they were just thoughts, that I could explore the feelings that were connected to them, and that they didn’t have to have power over me. Fear from those thoughts caused me to open up.
My advice for the teens who want to open up to their parents is to be honest. You don’t necessarily need to speak with your parents, you can instead speak with a therapist, guidance counselor, trusted teacher, or trusted adult. Just make sure the conversation is open and honest and you feel comfortable being yourself.
2. Have you written about other health related topics or other articles about teen depression? Was there anything specific which motivated you to write about these topics?
I have not. This was my first published article about teen health. However, I administer a column called “Around the Web” for my high school newspaper in which I display relevant news articles, including some about health.
I have been formulating how to tell this story since my friend committed suicide. Since quarantine started, I’ve been mindful of how it would affect both my mental health and that of my peers. After I heard about the tragic suicide of Jo’Vianni Smith, I felt as if it was an essential time to share my story and hopefully help others.
3. What is your favorite part about sharing these stories? Have you been contacted by anyone who has been touched/motivated by your inspirational pieces?
I think my favorite part is hearing that my words have helped people. People called and wrote – both teens and parents – appreciating that I was able to speak about my own experience in order to be part of the solution. . Additionally, a leader at New York Presbyterian Hospital contacted me, telling me that she enjoyed my writing and encouraging me to continue sharing my voice to promote health and wellbeing.. This felt very empowering! And you’ve contacted me, and your website looks amazing (Thanks!).
4. In addition to your therapy, was there anything else that helped you exit your phase of depression?
The therapy that I participated in was rooted in meditation. Frequent mindful practicing of it continues to help me improve my mental health.
5. What advice would you give parents who are trying to have an honest conversation with their children? It can be quite difficult for them to know whether they are interacting with their child’s honest self or their projected one.
I would tell parents to also be honest. It can be painful and scary for a parent to watch their child suffer, but they shouldn’t exhibit a facade. Instead, it’s quite important for them to facilitate an open, honest, two-way conversation.