Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Features

January 16, 2014

Teens tell all

Chiara de Blasio bared her soul on YouTube, but should your teen?

NEW YORK (AP) — Chiara de Blasio helped get her dad elected mayor, flaunting quirky head gear and joking from the podium on primary night. But on Christmas Eve, the 19-year-old did something else: She bared her soul on YouTube about her history of depression and substance abuse.

The idea, she said, was to urge others to get help. Fiercely protective of her privacy while allowing her front and center on the campaign trail, her parents released a statement of support when the surprise video dropped.

While the timing was questioned — the four-minute video from her father's transition team was released when many were distracted by the holidays — advocates for Chiara's generation of digital natives lauded her speaking out publicly as the act of a brave young woman.

Brave, yes, but foolhardy, perhaps, for other teens who don't have access to slick political handlers and, unlike Chiara, still face the perilous and competitive college admissions process. She already attends in California.

Handled or not, today's teens are notorious over-sharers on social media, but does Chiara's revelation symbolize something else as mental health advocates work to destigmatize the shame and silent suffering of those afflicted? What of other young people so inspired to publicly disclose their depression, drinking and drugging, eating disorders or struggles against suicidal thoughts?

"I think in general that it's healing for people to be honest. I also think in the admissions context that it's very challenging and problematic. I would advise a child to go very, very gingerly," said Carol Barash, founder and CEO of Story to College, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that has worked with thousands of students from diverse backgrounds on how to shape personal narratives for college essays and scholarships.

"There's a difference between telling your friends and the whole world," she added. "Most kids don't have a PR team to help them through what could happen, all the fallout from doing that brave, courageous thing."

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