The Atlantic

The Helmet That ‘Resets’ Your Brain

Magnetic stimulation is helping some people with depression—but the $12,000 treatment is also being unleashed in untested ways.
Source: Courtesy of Bre Hushaw

The past two weeks have been frenetic for Bre Hushaw, who is now known to millions of people as the girl in the depression helmet.

Hushaw has been hearing from people all around the world who want to try it, or at least want to know how it works. Her life as a meme began when she agreed to an on-camera interview with the local-news site AZfamily.com for a story headlined “Helmet Approved by FDA to Treat Depression Available in Arizona.” The feel-good tale of Hushaw’s miraculous recovery from severe depression was tossed into the decontextualizing maw of the internet and distilled down to a screenshot of a young woman looking like a listless Stormtrooper.

Jokes poured in. Some of the most popular, each with more than 100,000 likes on Twitter, include: “If u see me with this ugly ass helmet mind ur business.” “Friend: hey everything alright? Me, wearing depression helmet: yeah I’m just tired.” “The depression helmet STAYS ON during sex.”

Hushaw has been tracking the virality, sometimes cringing and sometimes laughing. She replies to as many serious inquiries as she can, while finishing up her senior year at Northern Arizona University before starting a job in marketing. A year ago, she didn’t think she was going to live to graduation. When she was 10 years old, her mother died. Her depression symptoms waxed and waned from then on, and they waxed especially when she heard the gunshots on her campus during a shooting at the school in 2015. She’s tried many medications over the years—14, by her count.

“From age 15 until I was 20, I

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
Meme Thievery Goes Corporate
For a company that sells fancy skin-care products, Drunk Elephant’s Instagram account tells a lot of jokes about carbohydrates. “I miss the 90s, when bread was good for you, and no one knew what kale was,” the brand posted in August. Two weeks later,
The Atlantic4 min read
The Mystery At The Center Of The Solar System
A spacecraft has finally gotten close enough to the sun to gather clues about some lingering questions.
The Atlantic7 min readPolitics
The President Can Do Whatever He Wants, Which Is Why He Can’t
The Founders gave the executive branch immense authority—but also counted on the people to hold their leaders in check.