Mental illness in youth

Bearing the Burden of His Mental Illness Caused Him to Carry actual Weights on His back

Bearing the Burden of His Mental Illness Caused Him to Carry actual Weights on His back  

By: Madeleine Voth

*Names have been changed because of the subject matter of this article


WASHINGTON, D.C. — John is a 15-year-old boy who is deathly afraid of germs and suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. When he started high school at Walt Whitman last year his aliment only started to escalate. 


He brushes his teeth so often that he needs a new tube of toothpaste every two weeks. He scrubs at them so much that whenever he brushes, his gums become red and irritated. He sometimes works out so hard that he pulls multiple muscles at a time, damaging his body further.  


Jennifer Rose, who is a special education teacher and is John’s mother, is thoroughly familiar with her son’s ailment. She feels that the root cause of many childrens’ mental illness is the trauma that they face at home, and though this isn’t the case for John, she knows many stories of abused children. According to the World Health Organization, worldwide, 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders. Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14, and three-quarters of them begin by the mid-20s. 


In the U.S., one in five adolescents suffer from a mental illness, yet only about 4% of the total Federal health care budget is spent on our mental health. As stated by Psychology Today, “The time has come to declare war on mental illness and place a priority on funding innovative neurobiological research for better prevention, diagnosis, early intervention, and treatment.” 


“A couple of weeks ago, the school called me and said that (John) had pulled a muscle while working out.” she said. ”They had to roll him out in a wheelchair. The nurse couldn’t pick up his backpack because he had put 40 pounds of weights in it so he could exercise while walking around school,” she said.This is one example of the many physical consequences that people with mental illnesses go through each day. 


John may also be using exercise as a form of self medication. Sometimes, self medication like this can go undetected because actual pills aren’t being used, but it still has negative effects similar to self medication with pills. Self medication like this needs to be more closely looked at, as it affects so much of our population, and is still greatly misunderstood.


The changes from middle school to high school are pretty big for most adolescents. Kids’ hormones peak, the pressure to fit is heightened, everything now counts towards your future. For some adolescents, it is twice as hard to cope with these changes when you are simultaneously coping with a mental illness. 


Currently, John’s mom is working with him on balancing school and his OCD, and taking a healthier approach on exercise and diet, and it seems to be working very well!





  • “Home.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/.


  • “The United States of Stress 2019.” EverydayHealth.com, 7 May 2019, 



  • Office of the Surgeon General (US). “Chapter 2 Culture Counts: The Influence of Culture and Society on Mental Health.” Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity: A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General., U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44249/.