#BreakingSilence: Local teen opens up about mental illness

Posted at 5:25 PM, Feb 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 22:44:17-05

She's got everything she needs.

"I test the colors out on my hands,” Caitlin Wren said. "I normally do it at the kitchen table, just bounce between pages and books"

Wren is a teenager who colors within the lines to keep her illness in line.

“It's preventative rather than just chasing the symptoms,” Wren said.

The symptoms of her mental illness.

"If I can take whatever is going on inside my head and use that energy to put something on paper then a little bit of whatever is happening stays on the paper,” she said.

Caitlin's journey with mental illness started four years ago. At 15, she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

As she got older, her condition worsened. At 16 she started hearing voices, experiencing hallucinations and delusions.

Her diagnosis changed to schizoaffective disorder. And then at 17, memories of sexual assault came flooding back and she was diagnosed with PTSD.

"Mental illness is so prevalent and when you dismiss it or when you don't get somebody help who needs proper professional help, you're putting their life in danger,” Wren said.

"If my parents hadn't been so great in getting me help and treatment right away, I probably, I definitely, would not be here today,” she said.

If it's happening to Caitlin, it's happening to others.

Our students, our children and teens are suffering with mental illness.

Ellen Eggert is an expert. She answers phones for the Kern County Mental Health Crisis hotline. She runs a support group for those who've had loved ones die by suicide.

And she talks to parents and students about mental illness and suicide awareness and prevention.

"I have found that some parents feel like they're a failure, if their child says, 'I'm really depressed.' 'Oh, you don't have anything to be depressed about. I don't believe that they would say the same thing if a child said, 'look mom my bone is sticking out.' They would get them to a hospital, immediately to fix that. And we have to see mental illness the same way,” Eggert said.

And get children and teens the help they need.

“Mental illness in general has a big stigma and understanding and willingness for mental illness is not there,” Dr. Albert Ma, a Bakersfield psychiatrist said.

Doctor Ma is the only child psychiatrist in private practice that will accept any patient that walks through his door in Kern County.

"The medical and scientific facts are there. The study is conclusive and it's been repeated all over the world,” Dr. Ma said. “So, it's not just, 'we want to push drugs on kids.' It's proven scientifically that depression exists in children and it's a big problem and now everyone is seeing suicide attempt by very young children and so I think you have to turn a blind eye to the fact to really not see that."

Caitlin was once suicidal.

"I'm kind of done with everything. I just want it all to go away. I want to be done,” Wren said.

She's far from done now. She's just getting started. She's opening up to us, hoping people will see children and teens are suffering.

"I think it's dangerous to think like that to pass it off or think they're being hormonal or they'll get over it or they just had a bad day,” Wren said. “Especially with children and teenagers, who, they can't go by themselves and make an appointment with a therapist with insurance, they need their parents and those around them to believe them and to help them."

"That's why I'm doing this,” Wren said. “It's why I'm trying not to hide what's happening with me. Because people need to know that it's real and that it exists."