The recent Lancet Psychiatry article on teenage goths and depression has prompted many responses, including an article in The Guardian and posts from fellow bloggers on blogs such as The Everyday Goth and Domesticated.
Here are a few of my thoughts...
(Firstly, I'll assert that it's easy to draw incorrect conclusions from statistical data. For example: 82% of people killed by lightning are men. One might conclude that lightning targets men or that women have a higher survival rate.)
I don't like the study's definition or context of goth. Essentially, it said goths are a group who rebel against the norm or attempt not to conform... as if the Goth group were a subset of the Rebel group. Do some teens "go goth" simply as a way to rebel? Yes. But I wouldn't say they're goths. I'd say they are rebels, and goth is their chosen mechanism of rebellion (and is probably just a phase). But many go goth because they're drawn to the music, the fashion, the art, and/or the culture. For many, goth is about finding a place that feels comfortable, not about rebellion.
I wonder what controls, if any, the study used for intelligence. Other studies have shown that smarter people are more likely to suffer mental illness. Maybe smart people are more likely to identify with goth than with sporty or chav or skater, and any apparent correlation with depression is actually related to intelligence, not choice of subculture.
Maybe teens choose goth because it appeals to them... but then they're bullied for being goth, and the bullying leads to depression.
There are a lot of maybes.
As for my own experience with goth and depression...
I didn't know about goth until I was an adult. But I was depressed practically since birth.
My teen years were excruciating. I did not rebel or strive for nonconformity. Quite the reverse; I followed the rules and tried to be inconspicuous. Under the strict dress code of Catholic school, I looked like everyone else. Even so, other teens judged me as different. I was picked on and bullied.
I first got treatment for depression at age 21. I slowly began to peek out of my shell, and at age 22, I heard about this thing called "goth." I looked into it and had an immediate sense of connection. I felt comfortable in the goth community. For the first time in my life, I didn't feel weird or freakish or rejected.
For me, depression and goth are correlated -- but it's an inverse correlation. When I'm more depressed, I'm less interested in goth music or fashion. When I'm more actively goth (crafting, sewing and DIYing in goth style, following goth blogs, listening to goth music), I am happier.
Identifying with the goth community has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me. I imagine there are others who feel the same.