ITHACA, N.Y. — At a time when many people’s mental health is in decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a local radio program is giving students a platform to voice their experiences with mental illness and to break down stigmas attached to them. 

In the fourth and fifth episodes of “Youth Voices,” a series that gives local youth a platform to discuss issues they are passionate about airing on the local station WRFI, nine Ithaca students ranging from middle school to college open up about their experiences with mental illness. “Youth Voices” is produced and hosted by Ithaca Voice contributor J.T. Stone. Learn more about the series here.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 American adults experience a mental disorder every year, as well as 1 in 6 American children. Despite its commonality, negative attitudes toward mental illness still persist, including the idea that people with mental health disorders are violent, unstable or dangerous. Although it’s not always easy, talking about mental health and mental illness is the first step to normalizing one of the most stigmatized topics in American culture. 

In the fourth episode of “Youth Voices,” local students Genevieve Noel, Edward Myers, Zadie Wang and Elliot Bell open up about their experiences dealing with mental health issues ranging from generalized anxiety disorder and sexual trauma, gender dysphoria and ADHD, trichotillomania and suicide. Wang also recites an original poem titled “You Are Enough,” which promotes self-love. This episode originally aired on WRFI on March 24.

In the fifth episode of “Youth Voices,” local students Sophia Rakovich, Deena Houissa, Leo Brisson and Bethany Mortlock speak to what it’s like living with mental health issues such as panic disorder and dermatillomania, bipolar disorder and OCD, and anorexia and depression. Zoe Gras also recites an original poem about experiencing suicidal ideations. This episode originally aired on WRFI on April 7. 

Previous episodes of “Youth Voices” tackle the issues of abortion, gun control measures and sports and performing arts stigmas. All the episodes can be found here.

J.T. Stone

J.T. Stone is a contributor for The Ithaca Voice and a 2020 graduate of Ithaca High School. Questions? Story tips? Email him at jt22stone@gmail.com.