Health and Development | Ages 15–18

One Young Woman Seeks to Banish Stigma of Mental Illness in Teens and Youth

Interview Still: Rebecca Bloom and Natalie  Singer-Velush

Rebecca Blume had no idea what hit her when, at 19, she began to feel frantic and "off" while she was living in her college dorm during her first year away from home. Up until then Blume had been an average, happy teen with friends and a close, supportive family. But suddenly she couldn't go to sleep or stop her brain from racing. She felt like she had superpowers. She was imagining and out-of-body experience based on a relationship she had had, and she was trying to hide the bizarre impulses and thoughts from those close to her. She was behaving so strangely that her dorm mates eventually got freaked out. 

Her first manic episode, as she would later learn it was, would launch Blume on a personal journey that would lead her to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, through several more manias, and eventually push her to come out of the closet about mental illness in hopes of helping others.

Too often, mental illness, especially in kids, is a taboo topic. People with mental illness are still stigmatized in our society. Yet the rate of bipolar symptoms among U.S. teens is nearly as high as the rate found among adults, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. About 3 percent of older teens in the U.S. report symptoms of bipolar disorder, according to a NIMH-funded study released this spring. More from NIMH:

"The findings reveal that the prevalence of bipolar disorder in adolescents approaches that of adults, underscoring the widely held belief that the disorder first appears in youth. In addition, the presence of mania alone suggests that mania without depression should receive greater attention when evaluating mood disorders in teens, especially since it may precede or be associated with behavioral problems such as substance use disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to the researchers."

Blume sat down to talk openly with ParentMap about how she deals with her mania, what bipolar disorder is really like for young people, and how we can all help banish the stigma and bring awareness.

Watch the video, join the discussion, and learn more about Blume's efforts and her first fundraising event, Blue Carpet Project, on Oct. 19 at 7 p.m.

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