Calling mental illness an epidemic implies that it’s new, when in reality mental health problems have always been present. It’s just recently that we’ve begun talking about them. At any given time, approximately 20 million Americans suffer from depression.
And according to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental health disorders among teens. As of 2015, 3 million American teens suffered from depression. To put this into perspective, that’s one in eight young people.
Iowa-based hairdresser Kayley Olsson met one of those teens earlier this month when she sat down in her stylist chair. At first, Olsson, who is a cosmetology student in Waterloo, Iowa, didn’t think she would be able to help the 16-year-old girl — her hair was so exceptionally matted and tangled. After being told at first that nothing could be done to help her, the teen told Olsson in tears just to shave her head. Olsson refused and picked up a comb instead.
“I feel worthless. This is worthless,” the high schooler told Olsson, CBS News reports.
Olsson knew exactly what the problem was. This girl suffered from depression, much like herself.
So Olsson told the depressed teen:
“We’re going to try as much as we can without having to use the clippers. I can’t promise anything, but I’m going to try my hardest to keep the length of hair that you want.”
So she slowly combed through the knots one section at a time. When making small talk, Olsson found out that the teen was suffering from depression that stemmed in part due to her parent’s divorce. She explained how she used to be an incredibly active teen participating in sports of all kinds, but within the past two years her mental health took over until she could barely even bring herself to get out of her bed, let alone brush her hair. The teen expressed how she felt so worthless she could only get out of bed to go to the bathroom, and how her parents were ignoring her problem.
Five hours later, Olsson was able to comb through the hair without a problem. She gave the teen a trim followed by a styling. She came back the next day for a color treatment, and it was then that Olsson saw the teen smile for the first time. Altogether, Olsson spent 14 hours on the teen’s hair.
Considering that 25% of women say they have changed their hairstyle to reinvent themselves, this teen received more than just a trim.
Her last words to Olsson were “This time, I will actually smile for my school’s pictures. You made me feel like me again.”