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Depression and Suicide in Silicon Valley : What you can do about it?

Depression and Suicide: What you can do about it?

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.

BACKGROUND:

In the affluent areas I am surrounded by, the houses are beautiful and the lawns are green, it seems surreal that this would be a place where depression rates are abnormally high. The students who have enough to be happy, are battling suicide statistics that seem to keep growing. With recent suicides around schools such as Gunn, Pali and more bay area schools cushioned in privileged neighbourhoods societal expectation that students should be molded–– nearly programmed–– into successful young adults, accepted into elite universities in order to live a good life. This narrative has become the social norm, in which students begin to prioritize their APs, SAT or ACT scores over their health. “After my interview with Kim Diorio, the Palo Alto High principal, she suggested I walk around the quad to see what the kids were doing during lunch. Diorio says she often asks kids what they do for fun, ‘and they can’t answer that question.’ ”  (Hannah Rosin, Silicon Valley Suicides). This phenomenon has created a generation of youths that lack the ability to express themselves as they’ve internalized their values from the culture surrounding them. Moreover, the subject, being taboo itself  makes it difficult to talk about “admitting we don’t entirely know why teenagers kill themselves isn’t an invitation to do nothing to prevent it from happening. It’s just a call for humility, a short pause to acknowledge that a sense of absolute certainty about what children should do or be or how they should operate is part of what landed us here.” On the surface “What looks like healthy assimilation into the family and community—getting high grades, conforming to parents’ and community standards, and being receptive to the interests and activities valued by others—can be deceptive. Kids can present as models of competence and still lack a fundamental sense of who they are. Psychologists call this the “false self,” and it is highly correlated with a number of emotional problems, most notably depression.” (Madeleine Devine, The Price is Right) This is not the only problem facing this generation, as they’ve also had to deal with the grief that has become unusually normal with this oncoming wave, learning to grieve and deal with while maintaining grades, and dealing with depression should be normal. 


THE CHALLENGE:

Depression has been growing amongst teens at a rapid rate, and it’s terrifying. Stereotypically depicted as something loners and outcasts deal with it seems bizarre that in a small valley buzzing with technology and flourishing businesses it seems unlikely that this area would be one where so many adolescents struggle silently with depression. However, on a closer look the nature of its culture points to blatant valid reasons of stress: the overwhelming cultural pressure for children to succeed, and overly competitive universities just a few miles away breeds an unhealthy internalized need to be hyper-competitive and succeed. Silicon Valley has been hurting its youth; internalizing in them the need that their academics are of the utmost importance and the competitive fields they strive to accomplish becomes so intense, leading them to leave their health behind. Amongst the bright young minds being brought and taught in the wake of an area that’s known for its innovation, the expectation of being a perfect student has taken its toll. Most notably in the schools such as Gunn and Palo Alto High School. In Santa Clara county, recent suicide clusters have raised the question: How can we prevent this? Why is this happening? Why is this becoming so common?


THE SOLUTION:

Depression can manifest itself in many forms, which can be difficult to recognize, even more so its symptoms vary by biological gender (studies have yet to conclude if they vary for those who don’t identify as cis-gender yet). Common signs to look seem obvious, irritable mood, isolation and oversleeping. However, this can easily be masked by feigned happiness, as sadness, as an emotion does not denote the mental disorder itself so is what you can do. Be proactive, look for ways in which you can help yourself and different types of treatements that could help you, or find a support group which can help you get through tough depressive episodes.

 

Depression is also the third leading cause of death in the united states, and is extremely difficult to deal with. It’s dealing with the feeling or having to help someone is overwhelming and hard. Dealing with someone who is suicidal is incredibly difficult and not something you should hold yourself responsible for. Talk to a counselor as soon as you can, because they know the best way to help you. If your friend cuts you off, it’s better to have lost a friendship than to have lost a person.


WHAT’S NEXT?

I think that there are a lot of ways to aggressively fight against the growth of mental health  with the amount of apps created to remind people to take care of themselves, and the self-care movement on twitter are a evidence that we are shifting to a more self aware society. I think for most of us in high school, our academic careers aware basically all we’ve known of life. It’s what we’ve done since pre-k and we are expected to do in college. It becomes easy to loses sight of a future when  it seems as if it all depends on  numbers and test scores. However the most encouraging thing we can do for each other is to take care of our peers and family, and to try to be a kinder person. It’s important for us to laern how vulnerable we are to mental disorders and how much support means to us. Is there anyone you’ve noticed feeling blue today? If so please do try to help them.


SOURCES CITED:

 

Hannah Rosin, Silicon Valley Suicides, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-silicon-valley-suicides/413140/

 

Madeleine Devine, The Price of Privilege.

 

 

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COMMENTS: 1
  1. May 16, 2018 by Max.Ting

    Aurelie, thank you for sharing this presentation. I love in Silicon Valley as well and I think that there is a major problem with the environment that students are being placed into. With such great opportunity, beautiful weather and great schools, there should be no reason why depression and anxiety is higher in silicon valley than other parts of the U.S. In such a competitive, academic, grade-focused environment, I think that people’s priorities can fall out of place and that is why suicide rates are so high.

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