'New Moon:' Bella Swan's Tween Life Crisis

Bella suffers from a classic case of clinical depression.

December 8, 2008, 6:37 PM

Nov. 20, 2009 — -- Bella Swan is depressed, and nobody can blame her. In "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," the much-anticipated sequel to the tween vampire romance "Twilight," Bella (Kristin Stewart) is living a nightmare.

At the beginning of the film, her vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen (the iconic teenage heartthrob Robert Pattinson), takes her to the forest and dumps her. Having lost her soul mate, Bella becomes a full-fledged recluse.

The film is energized by amazing action sequences, special effects and Pattinson's stunningly good looks, but teenage depression is at the heart of the movie.

This weekend, when teenage girls line up to swoon over Bella and Edward, they'll also get a realistic look at the emotional breakdown of their heroine, who suffers from a disorder much more common than expected among teenage girls in this country.

Although depression is difficult to discuss at any age, the topic certainly merits conversation, because in the U.S, one in 12 teens is depressed or suicidal, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"Last year, there was a 114 percent increase in suicide and depression rates among tween-age girls alone, which is particularly alarming," Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and author of "The Big Book of Parenting Solutions," told ABCNews.com.

Bella suffers from a classic case of clinical depression, triggered when Edward leaves her in the woods. "You don't want me anymore?" she repeats in disbelief to herself.

Mary Commerford, director of the Furman Counseling Center at Barnard College, told ABCNews.com that after a breakup, "people [like Bella] don't get angry at the other person, they get angry with themselves, [and] this self-attacking position creates self-loathing and low self esteem that can lead to depression."

After Edward's departure, there are warning signs in Bella's behavior that go largely ignored or unnoticed by her family and friends. She sits in silence at a desk looking out her bedroom window. The seasons change outside and the names of fall and winter months flash on the screen, but her eyes remain downcast and she entertains no visitors.

"Normally a social girl, her change in demeanor lasts more than two weeks, which should have been a red flag to her father," Borba said.

Bella has repeated bad dreams, and her father Charlie (Billy Burke) rushes to her side to rouse and comfort her on a nightly basis. His lack of sleep brings him to a breaking point.

"You're moving back to Jacksonville with your mother." he declares. When Bella protests he convinces her that Edward "isn't coming back" for her, and she agrees, but when he suggests that she see a therapist she rejects the idea, lying about her social life and pretending to have girlfriends. According to Borba, at that point, Charlie should have insisted that Bella go to therapy to help ease her loss, move on, and prevent suicidal behavior.

Suicidal Tendencies?

Bella begins to socialize with old friends to appease her father. She reconnects with Jacob (Taylor Lautner, who makes a sexy werewolf), who encourages her reckless behavior when she enlists him to help her rebuild a motorcycle.

Riding bike wildly down a dirt road, Bella sees a vision of Edward and hears his voice warning her to stop. She is so pleased to be reunited with her love -- in her mind's eye -- that she crashes into a rock, hitting her head.

At the end of the movie she nearly kills herself again in order to see Edward and hear his voice once more, if only in her imagination. Her thrill seeking and suicidal tendencies are rewarded at the end of the movie, when she is finally reunited with Edward.

In real life, teenage girls with suicidal tendencies don't have Bella's Hollywood luck. The vampire doesn't return and a thrill-seeking teen who's compensating for the loss of a loved one can end up dead.

"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" could be a conversation starter between teenage girls and their parents about serious topics of happiness, love, depression, and suicide. Bella's happy ending is certainly not reality.

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