Calvert Hall teen is happy to help

Depression: Medical treatment takes Curtis Adamo from isolation and despair to Oprah Winfrey's show.

March 30, 2000|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

Life is pretty good for Curtis Adamo.

The Calvert Hall senior is working at a pharmacy, enjoying his final year of high school and planning for college.

Quite a difference from the recent past. "I was diagnosed with depression when I was in the seventh grade," Adamo, 17, says. "I was sleeping a lot. I was reclusive. My grades were falling. I didn't eat very much. I had lack of energy, lack of motivation and spent a lot of time by myself."

Since then, Adamo has gotten treatment and a mission: to get the word out to other teens that depression is nothing to be ashamed of, or denied; it's a medical condition that can be treated.

FOR THE RECORD - In an article in yesterday's editions about two Maryland teens who will be appearing on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," the name of the educational program director for the Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association was misspelled. The director's name is Sallie Mink. The Sun regrets the error.

Adamo's chances of getting the word out greatly increase today when he and Maryland teen-ager Crystal Heinz appear on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" discussing young people and depression.

The route to Oprah began about a year ago after Adamo and Heinz appeared in a film called "Day for Night: Recognizing Teenage Depression." Adamo, Heinz and other teen-agers were interviewed on the film and talked about their experiences.

"It took us months to find kids who would do this," says Sally Mink, the educational program director for the Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association (DRADA). "Most want to keep it undercover." Adamo came to her attention through an ex-board member who is a counselor at Calvert Hall. One of the producers found Heinz.

The project was Mink's idea. The association is a nonprofit organization that provides education and support groups. DRADA works in cooperation with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The film was shown at Johns Hopkins University during a conference on mood disorders.

The film was underwritten by a parent whose son suffered from depression, Mink says. It came to the attention of pediatric psychiatrists working in the field of depression. And when Oprah contacted them, looking for videos of adolescent depression, "a copy was sent to her," Mink says.

Oprah liked what she saw, and Adamo and Heinz were flown to Chicago last week for a taping. "It was great!" Adamo says about his Oprah appearance. "I am excited; I will be reaching 22 million people."

Originally, portions of the film were to be aired on the show, but, says Mink, that was changed because the producers felt more time should be focused on the kids.

Adamo, who continues to be on medication, suspects he isn't the only one among his peers with depression. After years of treatment, Adamo has two words for those who might be going through the same thing: Get help.

"When you start thinking you can handle it yourself, that's when you get into trouble," he says. "It's important to realize depression is a medical disorder."

Adamo has learned a lot about himself since he has been in treatment.

"I've learned what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are," he says. "I've learned what I like about myself, what I don't like. What I can handle, what I can't."

Most of all, he's learned the importance of opening up to others and passing on the knowledge.

"It's important to talk about what I've gone through," the teen says. "Being open has helped me a lot.

"If I can help one person, it's all worth it."

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