a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
I was on the rooftop when this happened. It was New Year’s Eve – this last one. Up there, looking up, the sky was poorly lit. The stars hid for the most part, faintly winking, coming back every now and again only to dissolve again, and everything, for a moment, wasn’t so bad. I don’t know why I was up there. I only ever go up when the net is gone, and it must have been so on that black, little night. It was quiet, simple, but it wasn’t quiet for long. I heard a whisper, another whisper, more whispers until I could hear music – music faint and at the back. It was the whispers that sounded and what made me, as I did without my realizing so, walk to the edge of my roof, where, looking down, I could see a group, lined up in a circle, half of them smiling and half of them nervous. I rested my elbows on the railing and leaned as far as I could. I watched and listened.
Father plays hide and seek with us every night before we go lie on the petals,
He hides in the corner that leads him out of the house/ he will come back/ he will come back/ he will not/ I'm grateful that he does come back every time
I dip my feet in the warm water he brings home every night,
Guilty of doing so
I. The Goldcutter
Most people remember my mother for one thing: her golden hair.
Everyone used to treat it like it was something to behold, but I’ve always thought hair was hair and that was it. Then again I wasn’t blessed with Mother’s blondeness, or her beauty for that matter, as both Mother and the other neighborhood matrons have been keen to point out.
In the slender branches of an oak tree, a small songbird alighted gracefully, the branch trembling slightly under its tiny feet. The wind whispered as the bird’s eyes darted around, scanning its surroundings. Suddenly, the bird lifted its head, letting a melody pour from its throat: four short, gentle notes, followed by a rapid trill. The bird paused, looked around, and then repeated the melody.
[Content warning: panic attack, depression]
mental illness: the musical off-broadway run/lights go down/slowly/then all at once/then the theatre becomes unsettling/begins to vibrate/slowly warms itself/darkens/nervously sweats/end of act one/they call that number panic attack/critics say it’s an immersive experience/you feel like you’re having a panic attack/maybe you do have a panic attack/this is the first act/conveniently placed so the cast can have their panic attack before stepping on stage/but they do/
You lived in a house in Yeokchondong, at the outskirts of Seoul where corners of garments pinched on clotheslines ran across windows. There was a watch shop across your house, bold red, blue letters painted on its glass walls. Behind the counter, the cheap metal rims and faux gold straps of the watches glistened. This was the very house my father grew up in. The thin, crusty walls browned and yellowed from its decades, perhaps centuries. Faint, gray mold swelled from every corner, where the floor and the walls met. It reminded me of your blue-violet veins fanning across your wrists.
why do all my friends like blue? the shade
we all use to symbolize sadness. is it the
mysteriousness that lures them
like how sirens attract sailors with their eerie voices?
is it the yearning for validation
for such emotion may only be permitted
through the most asphyxiating adversities?
some days, your name
is the most terrifying thing i know.
i don't dare write it, i don't dare
utter a stronger, deadlier word.
i have plucked my heart's contents like
flower petals, gave i love you's away like
flyers — i did not know the difference between
reckless and careless
I hang in the school hallway,
just for the month
until the sixth graders finish their self portraits.
The chants of No justice; No peace
have faded. No more inquisitive glances.
I’m part of the background now.
The bored kid in the hallway
would rather look at the maps of California drawn in history class.
Hanging on the wall opposite me is the new math problem.
The first person to answer it will get a Starburst.
The kids used me like a piece of clothing.
As soon as my colors fade, I’m discarded and forgotten.
I strolled down, along the Hudson River,
the late afternoon autumn breeze ruffling
the edge of my skirt. A picture caught
my eyes. A man of umber eyes and hair
with a beard that traced the edges of his
warm smile. An officer. His pictures
lingered on the cage-like metal strings,
chrysanthemum shriveled around him.
About 75% of all mental health issues begin in the years of adolescence. It can feel like stepping on eggshells when trying to encourage anyone who may be struggling with mental health, but it is incredibly important to be there for them. Teenagers and their moods can be scary, so it’s understandable to worry you might be doing the wrong thing when trying to help someone with mental illness, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Doing research on the proper ways to provide support to those struggling with their mental health is not only exceedingly important, but also a massive display of how much you care.
The playground in front of the church my summer camp is held in has a small sandbox near the back, plastic buckets and castle molds strewn across the surface. There is a layer of dark sand under the top layer that we are all fascinated by and pile high into our buckets alongside mounds of brown sand to form ‘marble cakes.’ We speak in broken English and Chinese because that’s all we can afford, waiting for our parents’ minivans to pick us up in the afternoon.
My mother’s back was like a mountain,
And I lived by the base.
She provided me with streams for hydration,
caves as havens from the dangers,
trees for oxygen to survive on,
flourishing crops to quench my hunger,
and many spirits to accompany me on my journey.
[Content warning: strong language, discusses suicide]
The day is the 7th of December, 2020. Finally the last year of Trump’s presidency, maybe the beginning of his autocracy. The year is nearly finished and Christ(mas) is coming soon.
When America was born, the founding fathers made it clear that "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
When I was younger, I used to play dress-up. I would throw on my slightly outgrown Cinderella princess costume—a hand-me down from cousins—over my pajamas first thing in the morning, completed with a moth-white headband that would gently pinch my ears at the sides. And I clomped around the house with my low heels letting everyone know tacitly when I made an entrance. In retrospect, I distanced myself from traditional attire because I wanted to wear what I felt comfortable in—something that gave me a sheltered and secure feeling.
[Content warning: death]
Engraved on the stone, ‘a beloved memory’
Hands folded but throat wrapped in twine
After I’m gone, that’s when you think of me?
Life is not a victimless crime.
Purge the desire from your heart and the thought from your mind
Darling, you know that it isn’t yet your time
Think of all those that you’ll leave behind
Death is not a victimless crime.
[Content warning: depression, suicide ideation]
i'm counting the ceiling lights of my therapist's waiting room until my eyes hurt.
37. who even puts an odd number of lights on the ceiling?
oh. 3 of them don't work anymore.
40 ceiling lights is too many.
it's as if they're there to pierce through the bodies of the clinically depressed 19 year old, the PTSD-struggling 10 year old who can't talk about anything but the evening someone set his house on fire, the 37 year old who just found out her husband of 10 years was cheating on her, the 14 year old with anger management issues who tears the catalogues about mental health to pieces in front of everyone, the 48 year old man who always sits there pretending he's there to pick someone up & not here to talk about his pattern of either loving weak women or weakening the women he loved & the 24 year old woman who was caught kissing someone & is here to be 'talked' into 'maintaining' her 'chastity'.
it was one of those family dinners hosted on humid summer nights, everyone gathered around the table; filling their plates with the chicken tikka & chicken seekh kebabs Baba drove 4kms to bring home, spilling some mint yoghurt chutney here, a little imli sauce there, aunty distributing quarters of naan around, the hiss of cola bottles opening, the air thick with the scent of barbecue & freshly sliced onions, everyone talking over each other, snippets of conversation floating above the nusrat fateh ali khan music playing from our old speakers. a stack of cassettes piled on top of it.
each cassette had two sides. A & B.
i've always noticed that side B was unexpected & completely different from side A. i don't know why that was, but it was intriguing. i always waited for side A to end so i could flip the cassette to a different side, one that had nothing to do with its former playlist.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” - Revelations 3:20
Back and forth,
It is another summer day,
and my cycle begins again.
Why was I so convinced that the world was ending?
Look them in the eye
or they’ll think you aren’t there.
Look them in the eye
or they’ll think you aren’t listening.
When you don’t look them in the eye
you give them the power to claim you’re
than a ghost
It’s still dark outside when you step out onto the pavement and make your way towards the outskirts of the town. Snow blankets every roof and crackles under your feet with each step you take. The trees lining the road are sparse, black claws rising from the earth towards you, weighed down by clumps of white. It’s chilly this early in the year, and you’d much rather be nestling up in bed, but duty calls. They have taught you since young that defying the rules brings about major repercussions, and you’d like to keep your head safely upon your shoulders.
[Trigger warning: suicide. Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255]
There are three things on the table
The Godfather a bottle of painkillers and a letter saying why
The bottle is still sealed and the book is half-finished and I still want to know what happens to Sonny Corleone he’s my favourite character from the book because he’s fiery-tempered and not so cunning and just so riveting and interesting this is one of the best books I’ve ever read even though I know I’ll never finish this book and my letter is in nasty nearly-unreadable scrawls in ink wet and smudged with tears and old dried blood on scratch paper full of tiny old doodles from school and I’m going to open the bottle now yes I’m opening it right now tearing off the seal and pouring some pills in my hand as the container goes klak klak klak and I’m about to shove them in my mouth if I’m not too scared to do it because even though I really really really want to know what happens there’s no other reason for me to continue on except for
if words are vehicles to translate thought, maybe god should hire a repairman by Alicia Cai (17, Delaware)*
I think on paper. My mouth does not open. Words aren’t pretty when they’re syllables hung in the air, they only look good in petite Times-New-Roman rows. When they tumble off your tongue they feel displaced. They don’t mean what you mean. They’re loose strings of thought, incoherent and irrelevant, not even close to the muscular ropes that tie all of your anxieties up in one concise, consistent character flaw, which for all your perceptiveness you can’t see. Stop annotating yourself and let the ropes unravel. Your brain is clockwork. It only functions when ropes aren’t clogging its gears.
[Trigger warning: domestic violence/abuse]
My friend told me that
she married a man who yelled
and when his rage became
a fist against her bruised eye
I know she weighed him
on a scale with her father
on the other side.
She Came Blustering Up to You in a Carpark Three Years Ago and Now You Can’t Get These Thoughts of Dying Out of Your Head by Weddy Alvin (16, Ireland)
She takes a look at your science notes, the messy ones that show how your mind is going a mile a minute and she gasps. It goes deep into her chest and you want to ask if she’s okay, but already she’s got your wrists in her hands.
“Tell me you dream of the stars,” she says, eyes alight with all those things she just can’t reach because her mind has never wrapped around numbers and calculations the way yours has, and it’s a plea. She needs this in the same way that the moon needs the sky and the same way that you need to hear her laugh.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.