NEWS

Hearing, video highlight struggle to recognize and treat depression

Lindsey Parietti

Needham teen Mike Haas has come a long way from the days when he lay curled up in bed, crippled by depression.

Haas, 18, is one of three people with depression featured in a documentary “Depression: True Stories” that was screened at a mental health forum at the State House Wednesday.

“I thought that if I was going to disappoint so many people, if I wasn’t alive it would be better for everybody,” Haas said in the film.

“I thought he was being stubborn or acting out,” said his mom, Ronnie Haas.

His dad, Chris Haas, thought he just had to give Mike the strength to pull himself together.

After being hospitalized and treated with anti-depressants and ongoing therapy, Haas is finishing his senior year at The Cambridge School of Weston.

“It’s always hard to talk about it, but I didn’t have second thoughts or anything,” said Haas, who plans to study photography at the Massachusetts College of Art after graduation.

The long-haired, bearded teen photographed the event as his parents spoke about their struggle to admit their son was depressed.

He smiled and slung his arm around best friend, Josh Kringman, 18, whose concern helped the Haas family accept that something was wrong.

“It’s very moving to have a young person describe his own struggle,” said Rep. Ruth Balser, D-Newton, who heads the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. “It’s important for other teens to know.”

The forum came a week after William Soverino became the third Nantucket teen to commit suicide since last February.

“I think there are lots of families who are concerned about how to get access (to help) for their children, and it’s certainly important to bring those concerns to the State House where we have the ability to make policy,” Balser said.

Balser and committee co-Chairwoman Sen. Gale Candaras, D-Wilbraham, hosted the event, which was sponsored by Partners Healthcare, the Department of Mental Health and Jeanne Blake, whose company Blake Works made the documentary to raise awareness about youth depression.  

After showing the documentary, a panel of mental health professionals and state officials discussed the negative image surrounding depression.  

Dr. Paula Rauch, director of child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, said school officials and medical professionals can convince parents that depression is a life-threatening disease by comparing it to other less stigmatized illnesses like diabetes.

Ronnie Haas said those kinds of analogies made Mike’s problem seem more tangible.

Mental Health Commissioner Barbara Leadholm made a pitch for Balser’s legislation, which would require insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses as they would other diseases.

“By not having parity, we’re sort of supporting the myth that there’s a difference between medical illnesses and mental illnesses,” she said.

Lindsey Parietti can be reached at lindsey.parietti@cnc.com.

MetroWest Daily News