Meeting the five Chatham teens featured in ‘The Age of Anxiety’

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 11/29/19

Telling the story of teen mental health in Chatham County would be impossible without the teenagers. Hundreds of adolescents in Chatham County deal with pressure from all kinds of areas — school, peer relationships, families, finances — and the five teenagers interviewed for “The Age of Anxiety,” the first season of the new podcast “The Chatcast,” are no different. They’re different genders, ages, classes and even sexual orientations.

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Meeting the five Chatham teens featured in ‘The Age of Anxiety’

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Posted

Telling the story of teen mental health in Chatham County would be impossible without the teenagers.

Hundreds of adolescents in Chatham County deal with pressure from all kinds of areas — school, peer relationships, families, finances — and the five teenagers interviewed for “The Age of Anxiety,” the first season of the new podcast “The Chatcast” are no different. They’re different genders, ages, classes and even sexual orientations.

You can hear from these teenagers and others as part of “The Age of Anxiety,” which will be available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and more on Friday, December 13. You can also visit chathamnewsrecord.com/chatcast for more information.

Elijah Roebuck

Elijah Roebuck admits that he’s an overthinker and says he feels very strongly.

“I feel like I have very high emotions, whether it be happiness, sadness, anger,” he said. “If I feel an emotion, it’s going to be a magnified version, I feel like. I feel like my experience does stem from that, but it also draws more from the people around me.”

A freshman at Northwood High School, Roebuck had his first brush with suicidal ideation at 8 years old and has fought with depression ever since. He said there have been “a lot of events” in his life that have led him to “rethink” himself.

He spoke in-depth about being in school and the pressures and stresses that come with spending many hours every week within a school building taking tests and interacting with peers. And it’s not always smooth.

“Everyone says things for a certain reason,” he said. “You might lie for a certain reason. You might tell the truth for a certain reason because it might be a hard truth about someone else. But normally gossiping. This is still North Carolina, this is still Pittsboro, it’s not the worst high school in America, by far. But it’s still very stressful at times.”

Chloe Rayno & Quinn Hennessey

This pair of 8th graders from Margaret B. Pollard Middle School are members of the LGBTQ community, which statistically brings on pressures not faced by other students. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that high school students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers. Additionally, 16.8 percent of Chatham high schoolers “have been the victim of teasing or name calling because someone thought they were gay, lesbian or bisexual,” according to the county’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Rayno and Hennessey said some pressure comes from people questioning whether or not their orientation is real.

“I’ve talked to a few kids whose friends have been like, ‘No, you’re not bi(sexual). You’re definitely straight. Stop lying to yourself,’” Rayno said. “I mean that’s really hard because then they start to actually question that. I can’t believe that there are people who would actually try to convince somebody that they’re not. It’s ridiculous. And it’s not their place either.”

Hennessey added, “You start to worry, ‘What are people going to think of me? Is this really me?’ Especially when you’re questioning yourself. And then the depression comes from the homophobia and feeling like you’re really alone because no one’s there to support you sometimes.”

Kevin Manzanarez

In Chatham County, Latinx adolescents are twice as likely to attempt suicide as their white peers and twice as likely as their Latinx peers across the nation. Kevin Manzanarez experiences the unique pressures the Latinx community experiences on a daily basis.

“We’re scared to come back home and not find our parents because of ICE,” he said, referring to Immigrations & Customs Enforcement, the federal agency responsible for deportations.

Deportations of illegal immigrants have become a real concern in North Carolina. ICE detained nearly 30 individuals in a raid last February at a firearms manufacturing plant in nearby Sanford.

Additionally, Manzanarez said he faces the pressures most high school students deal with.

“Once you go in (to high school), it’s like a turning point in your life because you have to make big decisions about what you want to be when you grow up and everything,” he said. “And I think just the sheer amount of work we get from the beginning just accumulates and you can’t get it done.”

Abigail Holmes

A sophomore at Chatham Charter School, Abigail is no stranger to the News + Record. She was featured in “The pain inside,” a story that published in the December 13, 2018, edition of the newspaper, telling her story of panic attacks, self-harm and suicidal ideation. “The Age of Anxiety” will re-tell her story.

It will also look into how she’s not only turned a corner in her mental health, but she’s gone into outreach. She gave a presentation in class about her story, and it turned out well.

“That was the first time I ever told a bunch of people that I was dealing with depression at the time,” Holmes said. “And anxiety. And everyone was super supportive. A lot of people come up to me afterwards and they were like, ‘I’ve been dealing with this and this.’”

She said the best thing those with mental health issues can do is reach out, make a connection, develop a relationship where those issues can be talked about freely and openly.

“It can be a friend or — if you’re not ready to talk to your parents yet, like I wasn’t ready to talk to my mom for a long time — just tell one friend that you can really, really trust,” she said. “Also, if you have a guidance counselor at your school, that’s what they’re meant to do, is to help you. They can push you in the right direction and do everything they can for you.”

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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