Teens Who Hide Their Mental Illness

Whether it’s violence towards themselves, such as suicide, or violence towards others, such as shooting students at school, we’ve seen it too often in the news. Teens are turning violent, and it seems they’re crying for help. The mental health/mental illness of adolescents is becoming necessary to tend to.


On May 19, 2009, Kenny Baker took his life after a long battle with depression and anxiety. He was kind, softhearted, and a star swimmer. But he suffered from severe depression causing hospitalizations and medical treatment. He hid his diagnosis from friends saying that he had mononucleosis to explain his stays at the hospital. Despite treatment and a supportive family, he laid himself down on the railroad tracks near his home in Plainsboro, New Jersey to end his life.


Separately, John LaDue, age 17, from a small town south of Minneapolis, was arrested prior to committing any horrible crimes. He had laid out extensive plans, gathered ammunition, and intended to make an attack on his family as well as at his school in a few weeks. “I think I’m just really mentally ill,” LaDue told the police, “And no one’s noticed, and I’ve been trying to hide it.”


His plan was disclosed when someone called the police in late April after they saw someone suspicious carrying a backpack into a storage unit and close the door behind them. When police arrived, they found LaDue surrounded by bomb making materials, firearms, and papers documenting his plans.


According to the students’ journals, he apparently had intended to set off many bombs during school lunchtime, kill school administration, set fires to the school and shoot students before killing himself. LaDue made references to the Columbine shooting in 1999, where two students killed 13 people and then themselves. LaDue idolized one of the Columbine gunmen and even critiqued in his journals what he thought the gunman did right and what he thought he did wrong.


Another example is a well-liked, popular, and accomplished teen at Los Altos High School in California. She received a text from her parents while in class last year. The text read that she and her parents needed to talk about her grades. As a star student and athlete, she had received all A’s in her classes except for a D. When she asked to be excused from her English class to go to the bathroom after receiving the text, she never returned. Instead, she collapsed in the bathroom from an emotional breakdown. Later, the student did not want to be identified as having a mental illness because of the stigma. “I was very good at putting up a façade,” she admitted after eventually diagnosed with Major Depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.


Hiding mental illness only seems to make it stronger. Yet, the stigma of psychological illness, such as depression, makes it difficult for teens to talk about it, let alone get mental health treatment. The alternative, especially when you’re a teenager, a time of life when looking and appearing well is in the spotlight, is to hide what’s wrong, keep something like a disorder under the radar.


But carrying it inside oneself and trying to hide it from friends can make life very difficult. According to Suicide.Org, approximately 20% of teens experience depression before they reach adulthood and 10% to 15% suffer from symptoms of depression at any one point in their adolescence. Furthermore, because suicide is closely related to depression, suicide rates among teens can indicate the severity of increasing rates of depression in teens and adults. For instance, a teen takes his or her own life every 100 minutes. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 15 to 24. Sadly, only 30% of depressed teens are being treated for their psychological illness.




Raymond, J. (June 25, 2014). Demons Inside: Teens at Risk Can Hide Mental Illness. NBC News. Retrieved on June 30, 2014 from http://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/demons-inside-teens-risk-can-hide-mental-illness-n142791

Noguchi, S. (February 5, 2014). Teen Health: Depression, Anxiety, and Social Phobias Rising in Kids, Educators Say. Mercury News. Retrieved on June 18, 2014 from: http://www.mercurynews.com/health/ci_25074044/teen-health-depression-anxiety-and-social-phobias-rising