Mending the Mind: Depression

By KBJR News 1

February 22, 2011 Updated Feb 22, 2011 at 11:10 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - At 19 years-old, Betsy Johnson is just beginning to live her life. But, she has already been through a great deal more than most of her peers.

"I noticed I wasn't as happy as all the other kids, they seemed to smile more than I did," Johnson said.

Johnson says her depression followed her through Middle and High School. She found herself in an abusive relationship, was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and began taking it out on herself. She started cutting and even burning her arms. Once she started, she says she couldn't stop.

"I couldn't tell and so if I would cut myself I would see pain, I would see physical pain. I would have a physical reason to why I was hurting."

In 10th grade, Johnson reached a traumatic turning point.

"I overdosed on my sleep meds and some Excedrin and I was brought to the ER," she said. "I was lying there, I knew I was going to die. I knew that isn't what I wanted."

Johnson's story isn't unique to the Northland. In a recent study by the Minnesota Department of Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 19 year-olds.

"Usually by the time we see people for treatment here, they are pretty much knocked down by their depression," said Ron Neimi, a Psychotherapist at Essentia Health Miller Dwan. Neimi worked with Johnson as she continued her fight.

"She's been very open and honest, taking good hard looks at herself, I've never heard her blame anyway one for her situations."

Johnson turned to help at Miller Dwan six times over the course of her struggle with depression.Experts say group therapy is the key to overcoming the illness.

Neimi agrees saying working in groups helps individuals share ideas and give each other support.

"I believe in the healing effects of being with others who have been through similar struggles or currently struggling in a mental illness," he said.

Betsy Johnson is now advocating for others going through dark times in their lives.

"It is very scary to admit that you have a problem and you can't control yourself, but once you do it, it is the most wonderful feeling on the face of the earth, it's liberating," she said.

Johnson says she's learned it's OK not to be OK.

According to research in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurse Associate Duluth's socio-economic conditions puts its children at greater risk.

Wednesday night, Kevin Jacobsen continues a look at mental illnesses impacting our children. He'll take a look at how problems plaguing one teen go beyond his diagnoses of autism.

Written for the web by Kevin Jacobsen