Shining a light

June 5, 2018

GREENWICH - The YouTube vlog of Greenwich High School senior Lucy Massam captures many scenes that might be found in the daily life of any high school student. She hangs out with friends, attends school, goes on vacation, takes part in extracurricular activities. But Massam sets herself apart from other students by using her platform to candidly address issues of anxiety and stress that many high school students face.

Massam talks openly in her videos about how she has dealt with anxiety and the pressures of high school. Like many of her fellow students, she believes that high school creates a culture of constant competition and comparison, leaving teens feeling stressed and overwhelmed while not teaching them the skills to deal with the age group’s unique challenges.

“It’s a huge problem, and I feel like no one really talks about it,” Massam said. “(Students are) not learning about mental health, or how to cope, or how to love themselves.”

Social media contributes to the problem, she said, making kids feel that they need to conform or present a perfect image of themselves.

Massam’s own battle with anxiety began early on in high school. She said that in addition to feeling pressure from school, she also struggled with everyday tasks, stayed up at night overthinking and replaying conversations in her head, and had stopped socializing.

The summer after her freshman year, she wrote her parents a letter explaining what she was going through. That started a dialogue that eventually led to her taking additional steps to get better, including therapy and medication.

“That wouldn’t have happened if I had not told them what was happening with me,” Massam said.

She started the vlog in the fall of her junior year. She said that prior to that she had a blog, but was looking for something that would have more interaction, as well as allow her to utilize her passion for photography and film. She said she didn’t realize how much happiness it would bring her until she actually started creating and uploading videos.

“Creating content, it’s really invigorating and thrilling,” she said.

The five- to 10-minute videos deal with a variety of topics, from time with friends to panic attacks, confidence and loving yourself. The videos take four to five hours to edit and upload, and she usually posts at least two per week, though she temporarily switched to daily vlogging to capture her last weeks in high school.

Though the videos take a lot of work, Massam said being able to use her creativity and energy to create something good is therapeutic in its own way. The feedback she has received has also been positive. She said people have told her that they had been feeling anxious or stressed, and that her talking about it helped them address their problems.

“For me, my favorite part is every time I post a video, waiting to see what people say. To put so much work into something, and to have them react positively, that keeps me posting,” she said.

Massam’s YouTube channel has more than 3,200 subscribers and her videos have received hundreds of thousands of views. She was recently asked to take part in a panel discussion at the Arch Street teen center, where she spoke about her struggles with anxiety and how she took steps to address them.

One of the hardest challenges for people dealing with anxiety is to realize and understand what they are feeling, and voice that to a friend, parent or school psychologist, she said. People need to try to communicate what they are going through, and from there they begin to take steps to receive help, Massam said. For friends or family members of people dealing with anxiety, Massam said the most important thing is trying to understand what that person is going through.

“Letting them know that you’re there for them, and providing the constant that someone needs is very important,” she said.

Massam will be attending UC-Santa Barbara in the fall, where she will major in film and media studies. And she plans on continuing to vlog and post videos in college.