Today I was alerted to a story doing the rounds about teen goths being more prone to depression and mental health issues than their peers. I couldn’t summarise my thoughts in 140 characters and I don’t think the parties I were chatting with would appreciate a long series of tweets as I reminisce on my Goth Years so here we are.
My views on the ‘Goths at risk of depression‘ articles are simple. I think I agree. As the article states, I don’t believe being a goth leads to depression in any way, but I think young people can seek solace in the look and the music and, if it helps them, that’s okay. If it isolates them further, then that’s a different issue. Depression is a personal hell and dealing with it differs for everyone. For some goth kids, it may be a phase, they can relate to the sadness or anger in certain types of metal and rock music, perhaps get support or company from fellow ‘goths’ online and off. However, there will be many who enjoy the ‘scene’ who don’t have mental health problems and there will be also many ‘normal’ kids who have depression. It can never be a handy check-list, “Oh, you’re fifteen and wear black. You must be depressed!” I have a teenager and in many ways she’s a little version of me. She loves her video games and comics but she’s also inherited my ‘Dark Side’. I would not be surprised if she walks the goth path, or if I get a text saying ‘I’ll be home soon mum, just chillin at the graveyard for a bit’. Will I check it’s not a mask of some kind for depression? Sure, but I’ll check in with her every so often regardless of the clothes she wears or the music she listens to, it’s part of being a parent. People are frequently mislabelled or wrongly self-labelled as ‘goth’. For some it may be a crutch for a short period of their lives, for others it’s deeper than that. Much like someone who goes to church just for Christmas versus those who are full-on Christian.
My teenage years were okay. Far from perfect but I think that’s part of being a teen. I had friends but I never felt like I 100% fit in. I felt kind of ‘off’ compared to everyone else. Eventually two things combined and I finally felt as close to myself as I’d get as a teenager. In the mid-90s we got the internet, we were among the first wave of UK homes to sign up with CompuServe. There wasn’t a whole lot on the internet at that point but I did discover chatrooms. I got in trouble for running up big phone bills as this was back in the day when you’d pay for the internet per minute. While I was accused of being addicted, it wasn’t really that. It was because I could chat to all these other kids who got me much more than my school friends. We’d chat about our day, what music we liked, swap recommendations for bands and films. I still get digs about my ‘addiction’ today but, really, I was just ahead of the curve. Now we’re all online all the time. Checking Twitter, Facebook, reading news, shopping, watching TV, playing games. Most people reading this will have made connections with complete strangers all over the world thanks to the internet. I was just in the first generation to do that. The second thing was my local big library that had more than just books. You could borrow VHSs and cassette tapes too (new and unusual back in those days!). I found a battered copy of A Slight Case of Overbombing by The Sisters of Mercy and never looked back, my inner goth became visibly obvious.
I was your stereotypical goth. Whatever springs to mind, that was probably me. Long dyed black hair, a collection of clumpy boots, eye-liner, fishnets, a variety of dog collars and chunky silver jewellery. I’d listen to trad-goth music such as The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, The Mission, Field of the Nephilim, Children On Stun… Newer bands with a gothic edge like HIM, Marilyn Manson, Dommin, The 69 Eyes, The Birthday Massacre, Type O Negative. I loved my horror films and novels, had an interest in Paganism and the occult, and a lot of time was spent at The Villa rock club, The Gander pub or Club X in Bournemouth. I was a creature of the night. And, yes, I did write poetry. No, I’m not going to dig them out for this blog. I was not rebelling against anything and I was not deliberately trying to be different than the norm, I was being myself. The one stereotype that has always irked me is that goths are depressing. I met a couple who were pretty… intense and a 19 year old guy who really thought he was a vampire, but, on the whole, we were no different to anyone else. We’d get drunk on absinthe or snakebite or whatever the cheap double was that night, have a laugh with friends and dance to the Ghostbusters theme. Goth and metal club nights back then were so friendly and not like the sleazy, meat-market dance clubs in Bournemouth. Bikers would mix with goths, punks with metalheads. I’d take a break from the dance floor and end up in conversation with a 60-something who’d be full of stories about being a roadie for Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath, or a ‘scary-looking’ biker would buy me a drink and tell me about the poetry he wrote that day and the charity work his biker group were doing. Some of the friendliest people I ever met were those considered unapproachable by ‘normal’ standards.
Times change though. I went on to have two daughters and there was no time for neatly applying my eye-liner, and jeans are easier to throw on for a school run than spending time carefully detangling your rings from your fishnets. Despite not currently rocking a goth-look, I feel many of us that have since grown up and gained adult responsibilities still have our ‘inner goth’. It’s more than just a scene or a look. It’s a part of who I am and probably always will be.