Research shows that one in eight children lives with an anxiety disorder that can cause crippling fear, nervousness, and shyness. And yet 80 percent of them are not getting treated. It's a shocking stat, but it's the reality for millions of kids across the country — one that Girls star and renowned mental health advocate Lena Dunham knows from experience.
On Tuesday, Dunham joined her producing partner, Jenni Konner, and youth anxiety expert Anne Marie Albano, PhD, at 92Y in New York City for a conversation about children's mental health. The women opened up about their own experiences with mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it.
Dunham said she lived with the symptoms of anxiety and OCD for most of her young life ("I don't ever remember a time not being anxious," she explained), but she didn't seek treatment for several years. Even when she did start seeing a therapist and taking medication, though, she felt ashamed, like there was something wrong with her.
"I don't know what I thought it would make harder, since my life was already completely impossible," Dunham said. "I also had an incredible amount of shame. At camp, the kids who had to stand in line for medication were freaks."
Of course, they weren't and aren't freaks. But that's how the stigma surrounding mental illness can make people, and especially children, feel. Dunham, who was formally diagnosed with OCD at age 9 and anxiety at age 11, said she only recently started feeling comfortable talking publicly about her mental health conditions.
"When you have anxiety and then you have shame about your anxiety, you're punishing yourself twice," she explained.
Now a prominent voice of the mental health movement, Dunham has continuously used her platform to speak out about the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and, specifically, the stigma surrounding taking medication to treat them.
"Lately I've been noticing that nearly every pop cultural image we see of a woman on psychiatric medication is that of an out-of-control, exhausting, and exhausted girl who needs help," Dunham wrote in a January 2016 Instagram caption. "But guess what? Most women on meds are women who have been brave enough to help themselves."
We couldn't agree more.
[h/t The Huffington Post]