- Kavya Seth
Did a California School Really Get Away With Kicking Out One of its Students for Having Bipolar Diso
“I am more than a liability. I am more than an object. I am a human.”
Last Wednesday, a girl from my school (let’s call her Sally) was essentially expelled for having bipolar disorder. She wrote a powerful post on Facebook that has since moved many students into outrage and action.
A similar thing also happened to me. I have been diagnosed with depression. In sophomore year, I was struggling with suicidal thoughts, and made the mistake of telling my mom, who then told the school counselors. They pulled me in and I made the second mistake about being honest about said suicidal thoughts, at which point they basically kicked me out of school because I was "a danger to other people/myself" and said that I could not come back until I didn't feel suicidal anymore, which, like Sally, involved a bunch of psychological tests and also took about a week.
Of course, as much of my stress was related to academics and grades, getting suspended absolutely did not help. In fact, it probably made everything even worse. Additionally, I couldn't help the sneaking suspicion that I was being cast out not because the school truly cared for my well-being in any capacity, but rather that they just wanted to avoid the paperwork and smearing of their reputation if one of their students committed suicide.
This horrible event just confirmed what I had always said: that our school counselors are unable to provide proper support for non-neurotypical students. In discussing it with my fellow friends and students, we have come to the conclusion that if our school isn’t going to do anything, we’ll have to take matters into our own hands. Many suggestions have been made, from wearing green (the color of bipolar disorder awareness) in solidarity to holding protests and instigating a schoolwide ‘rebellion’. But most of us agreed that the first step to fostering acceptance of mental illness is visibility. When people are open about themselves, stigma disappears. Suddenly, mental illness isn’t this vague, scary thing, it’s a real person that you know. This kind of awareness is important, because even at our age, mental illness affects far more of us than most think.
About 1 in every 5 Americans has a mental illness, and half of those mental illnesses begin at age 14. Teens are among the groups most severely affected by mental illness, and have one of the poorest survival rates. Puberty is when most mental illnesses begin to make themselves clear, but stigma from society, dismissive parents and a lack of agency leaves them helpless do do anything about it. By normalizing neurodiversity, we can take away its stigma and make the world the better place by allowing the suppressed fifth of our population to lead happy and healthy lives.
What are your experiences with ableism?
Which is more insidious to you: perpetuation of stigma by parents, or by fellow teenagers?
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