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South Mississippi Living 4/07

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Portrait of a troubled teen

Depression after Katrina led to book about recovery


Haley Moon, a Biloxi native and recent graduate of St. John High School, has written a book about her Katrina experiences.

BILOXI -Former homecoming queen and aspiring dancer Haley Moon may not look like the portrait of a troubled teenager, but things aren't always what they seem.

The 18-year-old St. John graduate has used her post-Hurricane Katrina experience to come to terms with a near eating disorder and a severe bout of depression to write a self-published book, "Katrina Tears," and she wants teenagers to know even the darkest of times can't take away their dreams.

Moon's struggle began after Katrina when she returned to her Holly Hills subdivision home in Biloxi to find her life in shambles, her home soaked in 5 feet of flood water, her belongings washed away, and the beloved dance studio, where she spent countless hours perfecting her dance moves, damaged and closed.

It "was one of the worst shocks... I was just crushed, I didn't think I would be able to dance again," she said.

Then the panic attacks began.

On some nights, Moon said, she stayed up and cried until 3 a.m., at her lowest point having suicidal thoughts, and wondering what was wrong with her.

She sought help from a psychologist and learned she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

"I was so burnt out on trying to be perfect," she said. "I just wanted to be me."

Meanwhile, an English assignment in which seniors were urged to push themselves into fulfilling a personal-growth experience led some students to choose to attain scuba-diving certification or a pilot's license. Moon used a notebook filled with her thoughts during her loneliest moments to write "Katrina Tears."

She said she believes it is important that other teenagers going through difficult times know they are not alone, although they may feel isolated.

Moon worked with medical professionals to gather information on post-Katrina stress and coping strategies to include in her book. One of her advisers was Dr. William Gasparrini, clinical psychologist of the Applied Psychology Center.

"A lot of the ideas (in the book) involve seeking help when it's needed and talking about feelings," said Gasparrini, "and those are always good ideas."

Moon's book is selling well locally, having made the Top 10 Local Bestsellers list last week at Barnes & Noble in the CrossRoads Shopping Center in Gulfport, and she is currently seeking grants to publish more books to distribute to states affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Now she is on her way to fulfilling her lifelong dream of dancing on Broadway. She is headed to New York this fall to attend Barnard College on a full scholarship, and she hopes to major in dance and biochemistry.

"I'm so strong now, and I have such a sense of self," she said. "I feel prepared for almost anything."

Highlights from 'Katrina Tears' Post traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder in which an adolescent has been exposed to a traumatic event. A traumatic event is an experience that is emotionally painful, shocking or distressing, where the adolescent's response involved intense fear, horror or helplessness. Examples of traumatic events among adolescents:
Natural disasters

Date rape


Child abuse

Death of loved one

PTSD symptoms may include:

Poor concentration

Sleep disturbances, nightmares

Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep


Little interest in usual activities

Thoughts of having a short future




Treatment of PTSD: Cognitive behavioral therapy

The adolescent is taught ways to overcome depression or anxiety and cope with reminders of his or her traumatic events.

"I was so burnt out on trying to be perfect.

I just wanted to be me."
- Haley Moon

Sun Herald originally published this article on August 11, 2007.


uravashi said...

I am mother of 18 years old boy and he is into depression from last 2 months, after the death of his close friend. Please give me directory of the psychologists. Our family is worried about his problem. We want to take him to experienced and good psychologists to overcome his behavioral problem.

Ana Maria said...


I am so sorry for your son's depression and the death of his close friend. Unfortunately, I am wholly unqualified to provide recommendations regarding health care practitioners. Perhaps your place of worship or your son's schools could provide you with a recommendation of someone qualified.

- am

pardeep said...
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YALIK said...
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Anonymous said...
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Ana Maria said...

I deleted Charles' comment because he was advertising a drug and this is not a forum for pushing Big Pharma's agenda.

- am

Residential Centers said...
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Ana Maria said...

I deleted this post because this is not the forum for spam advertising.

- am

Kaira said...

I am sorry about the situation you are passing by. He will definitely overcome the problem. I request to all the visitors that please help her out if you have any information about good psychologists.