Perception v. Reality

The World of a Teen Coping with Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression alter the way people view themselves and the world around them. Thousands of Californians - particularly teens - are struggling with these mental health conditions every day.

Yet the stigmas associated with anxiety and depression force many to suffer in silence. When left untreated, anxiety or depression can cause long-term damage and even end young lives. But we can change that together, by raising awareness and understanding.

Before treatment, I thought everyone at school wanted me to disappear. In class, I would parse every word spoken by teachers and other students because I thought everyone wanted to hurt me. In reality, most people were just going about their business." - Dylan

Dylan Titus

former patient, El Camino Hospital's ASPIRE program

I started getting teased when I was in fifth grade. Teasing eventually turned into bullying, which quickly triggered my long battle with anxiety and depression.

By the time I reached high school, my perception was so skewed that I didn't realize my life was actually improving: I had a stepdad who truly cared about me and a friend I played video games with after school. Nevertheless, anxiety and depression continued to cloud my view of the world - so much so that I attempted to erase it.

I tried to end my life when I was 14. When the overdose didn't work, my stepfather rushed me to El Camino Hospital. Days later, I entered the After-School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education (ASPIRE) program.

After completing the 8-week ASPIRE program, I stayed involved with their after-care program through my high school career. I can honestly say that it saved my life. The program taught me how to cope with my anxiety and depression and helped me find self-acceptance.

Today, I'm in my twenties. I'm healthy, happy, and working toward my dreams in Silicon Valley. I'm still coping with my condition, but now I have the ability to see the world with clarity.

I'm sharing my story because there are so many other kids just like me. The world is an incredible place, and they deserve a better view.

I only had one friend in high school, and we played video games together all the time. Despite spending so much time together, I was convinced he didn't care about me. In reality, he was open to listening to my struggles. We're still friends today." - Dylan

Dr. Glenn Teeter

Clinical Psychologist, El Camino Hospital

I know how differently teens like Dylan can see the world. Part of my job is to help them turn their negative perceptions into a positive reality.

But stigmatization of teens battling anxiety or depression remains a constant barrier on the path to success, and delays many teens from asking for help. At El Camino, we've designed an eight week after-school program called ASPIRE that removes the shame associated with seeking counseling and replaces it with the comfort of a classroom setting.

The teens in our program spend a lot of time focusing on stress tolerance, interpersonal skills, emotion regulation, and mindfulness. I like to say we help teens walk the "middle path," a way of thinking and acting that reduces conflicts and emotional extremes. We take a holistic view of each teen's life, and encourage participation and education for parents and family members, too. One of the most important parts of our program is teaching each teen to develop their own language of wellness.

Before ASPIRE, Dylan was living life on extreme ends of the emotional spectrum, but we’ve equipped him with the skills necessary to meet life's demands and focus on his dreams.

Before treatment, my life was an emotional roller coaster. From the moment I woke up in the morning, I was angry, sad, and lonely. El Camino's ASPIRE program introduced me to mindfulness meditation, a healthy way to release anger and prepare for the day ahead. Now, I meditate every morning." - Dylan

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or depression and has expressed suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

800-273-TALK (8255)

The California Department of Health Care Services manages many mental health programs for children and youth all across the state. Find local help here.

Teens battling anxiety or depression deserve access to high quality care when they need it most.

Join the community of Californians who are protecting care for our families and our communities.