When a 16-year-old girl walked into Kayley Olsson’s Iowa hair salon last week, it was obvious something was wrong.
But Olsson never could have anticipated the difference this one haircut would make, and the impact it would have on her.
“Today I had one of the hardest experiences with my client who I am keeping anonymous,” Olsson wrote on Facebook Tuesday. “I had a 16-year-old girl come in with [sic] who has been dealing with severe depression for a few years now. She got to the point where she felt so down and so worthless she couldn't even brush her hair, she told me she only got up to use the restroom.”
The teen told Olsson she was starting school in a few weeks, and was about to take her school photos.
“When she walked in she told us just cut it all off I can't deal with the pain of combing it out, she called herself worthless for it. It honestly broke my heart and we tried everything we could to keep this child's hair for her,” Olsson wrote,
Ultimately, Olsson would spend 13 hours combing, cutting and styling the girl’s hair for a remarkable transformation.
“We finally made this beautiful girl smile and feel like she IS worth something! Her last words to me was [sic] ‘I will actually smile for my schools pictures today, you made me feel like me again,’” Olsson said.
In 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
In addition, new statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the suicide rate among teenage girls between 15 and 19 hit a 40-year high in 2015. For boys the rate rose by more than 30 percent during the same period.
"The worries that teens have about belonging and being part of peer group are not going away and are worsening in this age of social media," says Dr. Matthew Davis, head of academic general pediatrics and primary care at Lurie Children's Hospital.
In the latest issue of The Atlantic, psychologist Dr. Jean Twenge described this generation as psychologically "more vulnerable than millennials" and "as being on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades" thanks in part to their smartphones.
In her post, which has been shared more than 75,000 times, Olsson said she hoped her message would educate others.
“At the end of the day I want this to be a lesson to people,” she wrote. “MENTAL HEALTH is a thing, it effects people all around the world and of all ages! PARENTS take it serious don't just push your kids off and tell them to get over something they legitimately can't. A CHILD should NEVER feel so worthless to not even want to brush their hair.”