By Aaron Allen
Over the past few weeks, many people around the world have been given a crash course on alopecia. Alopecia areata, also known as spot baldness, is a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body.
Often, it results in a few bald spots on the scalp, each about the size of a coin. Psychological stress and illness are possible factors in bringing on alopecia areata in individuals at risk, but in most cases, there is no obvious trigger, as people are generally otherwise healthy. In a few cases, all the hair on the scalp is lost (alopecia totalis), or all body hair is lost (alopecia universalis), and the loss can be permanent. It is distinctive from pattern hair loss, which is common among males.
Alopecia areata is believed to be an autoimmune disease resulting from a breach in the immune privilege of the hair follicles.
The recent incident at the Oscar’s between Chris Rock, Will Smith, and Jada Pinkett-Smith may have shed light on the issue, but the reality is that alopecia is more common than people think and the personal struggles and mental health issues of people living with alopecia is something that we should all be concerned about.
Jamie Elmore, a licensed hairstylist and salon owner in Seattle for over 30 years, knows first-hand the struggles of dealing with alopecia. The founder of a national alopecia support group, Elmore, who was first diagnosed with alopecia in 2004, is currently dealing with the agony of one of her mentees who recently took her own life. The 12-year-old girl from the Midwest had recently found out that she had alopecia and could no longer deal with the stress of being teased and bullied by her fellow students.
Elmore says that hearing the news that one of her mentees had given up on life shook her to the core.
“The mental health aspect should be addressed when it comes to alopecia because in the alopecia community there is a high rate of suicide,” says Elmore. “Just recently we buried one of our babies, 12-years-old, the kids were bullying, they were taking off her wig, tormenting this little girl. Within a three-week period, this baby committed suicide.”
Elmore, who discovered her first bald spot in 1998, has turned her struggle into an international movement helping others all over the world inflicted with alopecia, learn the nature of the disease and how to overcome its physical and emotional effects.