For years, San Francisco resident Susan Page couldn’t explain the overwhelming sadness that enveloped her as early as sixth grade.
Page, now 26, tried to confide in her mother Lynne Page about the absolute despair she felt. But, despite her mother’s support, waves of dejection continued to crash down upon Page and she weaved in and out of gloom until, as a sophomore in college, suicidal thoughts bubbled over and she wound up in a doctor’s office facing a mental health diagnosis.
“It was a feeling I couldn’t explain and it was a feeling that I felt that I shouldn’t be feeling,” Page recalled. “I remember one week, I felt so depressed I couldn’t do anything. And I was in the hallway in a hoodie just out of it; I wasn’t myself.”
Page is far from alone in her struggle with mental illness as a youth. In fact, the latest data — up to 2013 — from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development shows a rise in California’s children and youth mental crises.
In 2003, there were 38,818 mental health-related children and young adult discharges from hospitals around the state. That number increased to 48,832 in 2013 — a rise of about 26 percent in a 10-year period.
That’s why Page today is on the Youth Committee of San Francisco’s Mental Health Board, passionately advocating for adolescent well-being.
“I was always a huge introvert. I didn’t like myself at all. I struggled with depression from sixth grade to college,” Page said during the board’s Nov. 9 meeting.
Page’s journey has been quietly and deeply painful. Despite knowing all too well the stigma that’s still such a huge part of mental illness, Page, now co-chair of the Youth Committee, has been frank and forthright with her story.