"She got to the point where she felt so down and so worthless she couldn't even brush her hair."
“Today I had one of the hardest experiences with my client who I am keeping anonymous,” Kayley Olsson wrote in a Facebook post that’s gone viral. Kayley says her client, who is just 16, has been dealing with severe depression for years. “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,” Kayley said. The girl went to see Kayley before her school pictures and asked her to “just cut it all off” since she “can’t deal with the pain of combing it out. “She called herself worthless for it,” Kayley said. “It honestly broke my heart and we tried everything we could to keep this child's hair for her!”
Kayley said it took 13 hours of work over two days, but she managed to comb it all out. “We finally made this beautiful girl smile and feel like she IS worth something!” she wrote. "Her last words to me were, ‘I will actually smile for my school’s pictures today, you made me feel like me again.’"
“At the end of the day I want this to be a lesson to people,” Kayley continued. “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.”
The accompanying transformation photos are amazing, and while the girl’s face is mostly obscured in the pictures, you can see a hint of a smile in one of the “after” shots.
Clinical psychologist John Mayer, Ph.D., author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, says that it’s not uncommon for people suffering from depression to stop brushing their hair.
Mental health professionals often ask clients about their personal hygiene when assessing depression, he says, and neglecting it indicates the level of depression a person is suffering.
Depression won’t be cured by a trip to the salon, but it can help on some level. Research has even found that paying some extra attention to your appearance—specifically in the form of applying makeup—can give women a boost of confidence. “Guiding a person into such activities as a makeover or haircut can help the person feel better about their personal hygiene and thus about their self-image and self-esteem,” Mayer says. “These latter improvements in self-esteem and self-image are core coping mechanisms for relieving depression.” He says he often recommends that his depressed patients do things like this for that reason.
Unfortunately, hairstylist Katy Ryan, from Katy Ryan Studios in New York City, says she’s seen this kind of thing before, although not this severe. “People come in and start talking about their hair and all of the sudden they start crying,” she says. “Other times I’ll give someone a haircut and then they start crying and talk about what they’ve been through.” Katy says she’s found that hair is one of those things people tend to neglect when they’re struggling, and it’s often something they start to pay attention to again when they’re coming out of a depression or hard time. “It’s those little steps that can make you feel like yourself again,” she says.
If you have a friend who is struggling with depression, it’s important to first urge them to seek help from a professional and support them through counseling. But Mayer says you can also encourage them to treat themselves to a trip to a salon, a massage, yoga class, or mani-pedi. “They work!” he says.