Crying woman in bed with hand on face
The silhouette of a head pointing left is made up of black and blue hands. Above the head reads "spotlight on," and in the head reads "teen mental health."
Shining the Light: Spotlight on Teen Mental Health logo

Three essays by local Jewish teens dealing with mental illness.

‘Everything Was Falling Apart’

I came home from school that day extremely overwhelmed. I was constantly worrying about everything under the sun, and I didn’t really understand how to control it. I felt as if everything was falling apart.

I put so much pressure on myself to be this impossibly “perfect” person that I pretty much drove myself insane. There was so much built up inside of me and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I felt this unfamiliar tightness in my stomach and I found it hard to breathe.

Crying woman in bed with hand on faceI was alone in my room, and I figured that I was just stressed from that day at school. I got underneath the covers and tuned out the world for a while as I tried to calm myself down. I tried to convince myself that everything was OK. As I lay there, my mind began to race, and it became harder and harder to breathe. Eventually, tears streamed down my face and I was hyperventilating.

I had reached my breaking point. I needed to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect person and that my ”flaws” are what make me, me. The rest of the night, I cried and cried. But, while I was sobbing, I was able to think. I needed to stop comparing myself to the world around me and start being happy with who I was.

‘You Are Not Alone’

Dealing with anxiety and depression sometimes makes it difficult to clearly see my purpose. My anxiety tells me that I must know what to do with my life; and when I fail to see it, I feel depressed and unmotivated to do anything. I have gone through countless challenges regarding body image and mental health. This vicious cycle continues, and it is a battle.

silhouette in a tunnel. Light at End of TunnelI used to be a closed book, and many people didn’t even think I talked. However, I now am not afraid to share my thoughts and ideas with the world. I believe that sharing the challenges that I have faced have started to guide myself and others toward the light at the end of our long, dark tunnels.

I write about obstacles that we all face; but many, including me, have felt alone in the process. To prevent this, I have decided to let them know that they are not alone. I have realized that I have a desire to help others develop hope that everything will be OK, and I am attempting to fulfill that ambition. My mental muscles have gained tremendous strength because of my lowest moments, for which I am grateful.

Last year, my self-esteem was at an all-time low. I cried every day, and did not want to be around people. This year, I built up the confidence to run for student government, and I was elected president of my class! I discovered my strength and my beauty through these troublesome times, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

The Little Things We Do Matter

It all changed when a close friend attempted suicide. Obviously, I will never know exactly what he was feeling, thinking or going through, but I got a sense of it. As he began to share what he was feeling, including that he did not matter, my mind opened to the fact that these questions do need to be asked, and that they are just as important as any others.

Sad teen sitting on the grass in a park and a woman hand offering help with a green backgroundThrough numerous conversations with my friend and with others willing to help, I learned a lot about how these questions actually affect individuals and began to think about my own life through my friend’s perspective. Why do I matter?

I realized many of my friend’s concerns revolved around the worry that he would not accomplish anything noteworthy in his life, which made it not worth living. He thought that mattering requires doing something significant that sets him apart from the crowd. While I think people who do such things certainly matter, I realized they weren’t seeing the whole picture.

This epiphany led me to my own conclusion: You don’t have to be famous for curing cancer to matter. I haven’t done any such thing, and I matter just as much as the next person. Like my friend, I matter because of the smaller-scale things I can do. I helped my little sister with her math homework; I let someone borrow my textbook because she forgot hers; and I called my grandmother who was fighting pneumonia to make sure she was all right. These may not be world-changing feats, but it’s because of them that I make the world a better place and that I matter.

These anonymous essays are shared with the Jewish News by Friendship Circle.

One Thing I Wish You Knew

UMatter is proud to present “One Thing I Wish You Knew,” a community event highlighting the honesty and vulnerability of their mental health, Wednesday, March 21, at the Friendship Circle Meer Center in West Bloomfield. This event will focus on how teens in the community attempt to overcome challenges and often feel isolated and alienated.

Hands of old and youngUMatter is a program focused on empowering teens to shatter the stigmas surrounding mental health challenges and suicide.

This event will highlight the vulnerability and honesty of teens who will tell the people in their lives what they wish they knew about their journeys. Multiple relationships that teens in our community have, including parent-child, sibling-sibling and friend-friend, will be highlighted, including the difficulty of sharing what occurs beneath the surface.

How do teens tell the people they care about how they are feeling, when oftentimes it is hard to put into words?

This event, sponsored by Friendship Circle, Friendship House and the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety, will be accompanied by a community resource fair and light dessert reception.

The community resource fair begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the event at 7 p.m. Friendship Circle is located at 6892 W. Maple Road. To register, visit


Read more essays from local teens sharing the difficult times in their lives. 

Here’s My Story – A Dark And Scary Time, You Matter and Depression


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