Young people who suffer from the autoimmune disease known as alopecia experience a multitude of social hardships. Many are faced with laughter and ridicule when the disease begins to manifest.
Rumors and misconceptions about alopecia abound. Unfortunately, the general public just isn’t very educated when it comes to this often misunderstood disorder.
The time for ignorance is over. Listed below are 4 things people with living alopecia want you to know.
1. We’re not going to die anytime soon.
The next time you see a bald person, don’t automatically assume that they’re recovering from cancer.
Megan Adair started suffering from alopecia in high school, according to a personal story she submitted to the NAAF website (National Alopecia Areata Association). The summer before her freshman year began, her hair fell out and she went completely bald.
When she showed up to school wearing a hat, her fellow students started making fun of her. One classmate began teasing her by repeatedly asking her when she planned to “kick the bucket.”
Megan’s bully was only exposing his own ignorance. Alopecia isn’t a deadly disease. And it has nothing to do with cancer.
2. We’re not looking for pity.
In general, people living with alopecia just wanted to be treated like normal human beings. That’s why even genuine attempts to offer love and support are sometimes not welcome.
In an interview with popular blogger Sarah Von Bargen, alopecia sufferer Anoushka Isaac said that she used to hide her condition so that her peers wouldn’t try to offer their condolences.
3. We’re beautiful.
According to an interview posted on kidshealth.org, Miss Delaware winner Kayla Martell’s first real boyfriend broke up with her in 6th grade because he found her hair condition to be too embarrassing.
But Martell boldly refused to let alopecia stand in the way between her and the Miss Delaware crown. She won despite her condition and became the first bald Miss America contestant in 2011.
During a CBS interview, Martell explained that community is the key to overcoming alopecia. “If you find someone who can be supportive of you and you can learn from, that’s the greatest thing, to build relationships.”
4. We don’t want to hear your jokes.
Don’t be too quick to tease an alopecia victim– even if he or she is a close friend. The onset of alopecia can be a traumatic experience, especially if the disease manifests in the childhood years.
According to a study entitled “A Comparative Study on the Prevalence of Depression and Suicidal Ideation in Dermatology Patients Suffering from Psoriasis, Acne, Alopecia Areata and Vitiligo,” 60% of people suffering from alopecia universalis entertain suicidal thoughts.
An alopecia sufferer named Jessica shared insights gained from her battle with depression with about.com’s hair advice expert Jessica Franck.
Jessica endured harsh bullying and teasing when she started losing hair in second grade. She went through a depressive phase following the onset of alopecia– but luckily, Jessica was strong enough to emerge a stronger, happier person.
Sadly, not all alopecia stories have happy endings. Some alopecia sufferers choose to act on their suicidal feelings.