By: Sutton Loughran | Writer
May 30, 2018
May is a lot of things.
Finals are coming up, seniors are counting down the days until graduation and move in dates, underclassmen are picking their schedules for next year, and everyone is teetering on the verge of their breaking point and switching off to complete summer mode.
The end of the school year is a whirlwind, which is why it is so important to recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month. As wikipedia states, “Its purpose is to raise awareness and educate the public about: mental illnesses, such as the 18.1% of Americans who suffer from depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder… It also aims to draw attention to suicide, which can be precipitated by some mental illnesses. Additionally, Mental Health Awareness Month strives to reduce the stigma (negative attitudes and misconceptions) that surrounds mental illnesses.”
Although you may not see it, many of your friends and classmates around you are struggling with mental illnesses. Most of the time, it is hard for students to reach out and ask for help. And that’s the case for a plethora of reasons, a few of them including, “The need or urge to feel strong. They don’t want to put out a cry for help, and some will make [what you’re going through] feel like it’s not that big of a deal,” senior Brittney Mercuro said. Fellow senior Meghan Byrne added, “The environment of the school counselor in general can make it intimidating to talk about how you actually feel. Even though they are there to help, they’re not completely confidential if you’re under 18. The goal is to keep you safe, but they are able to contact your parents if they feel that you might need more direct help at home, which holds a lot of kids back from reaching out.”
This month, you may have seen the hashtag #EndTheStigma on social media. Prominently in middle school and high school, there is this weird stigma that it’s “odd” to see the school counselor or a therapist, people are looked at differently when people find out they take anti-depressants, and there is still the misconception that things like depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety are solely feelings. They are not.
Junior Emma Bishoff explains that, “Everyone should take these mental illnesses seriously and remember to get perspective when times get rough.”
Mental illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of, but for some reason many people play it out to be. The social stigma on mental health comes out when a person is finally comfortable or brave enough to share with a person the parts of themselves that are real and raw and not “instagram worthy”. When a person struggling with their mental health opens up to somebody and they are judged or looked at differently, they start feeling ashamed of something they can not help. It’s the same as a person making fun of someone’s leg, hand, or ear. It causes one to feel insecure or embarrassed about something they have no control over.
Here is a list of tips and suggestions for dealing with an unbalanced mind made by students, for students. Whether you need it for yourself or to pass on to someone else, read away!
“If you’re starting to doubt your worth and if you can be on this earth any longer, take a step back. Eliminate anything you can that does not bring you joy or that simply brings you down. Drop a class, stop sports, whatever you need to do. Doing those things are always options even though it can seem impossible. Talk to your academic advisor- there are always options.” – Sienna Koppang (12)
“Get a dog.” – Landon Russell (11)
“Remind them that these years will fade by and you can learn who you really are. Also, it’s important to surround yourself with only supportive people who have your best interests, which often time is your family, so lean on them and be honest about your feelings.” Emma Bishoff (11)
“Do the exact opposite of what your brain is telling you to do and push yourself to go outside, talk to people, do anything but lay in bed.” – Anonymous Senior
“We’re way to young to be struggling with something so difficult and scary and it can be so hard to reach out for help but so easy and simple – such as reaching out to a friend you truly trust or even a stranger and if [you] feel comfortable with the school staff i recommend going there first and asking for help! Another is joining other school activities to keep you active and social! It’s a lot more fun when you’re with people instead of being sad by yourself and worsening your depression.” – Joley Flores, Class of 2017
“For me, one thing that helped was really making sure I was taking care of my physical health. Getting enough sleep, eating right, and making sure you are doing all the things you need to do to take care of yourself prevents you from falling into this negative feedback loop.” – Meghan Byrne (12)
“About halfway through junior year I didn’t care or pay attention to what I ate, but once I started eating better that helped a little. Once I went vegetarian, it helped me so much and I just felt generally better. Although I’d still have moments where it got bad, they’d be much less severe and felt more manageable.” Anonymous Senior.
“Everyone’s goin’ through somethin’, try and help as many people as you can. It’ll make you feel better.” – Josh Greene (12)
“As far as anxiety goes, I’d suggest CBD oil, it’s what has helped me the most to just calm down, get out of my own head, and stop stressing and overthinking everything.” – Anonymous Senior
Mental illnesses are not something one can brush off. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and by that I mean that no one’s paranoia, drug addiction, schizophrenia, panic attacks, or any type of mental disorder is alike.
In a spoken word poem written by Sabrina Benaim, she says “My depression is a shape shifter. One day, it is as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear. The next, it’s the bear. On those days, I play dead until the bear leaves me alone.” Sabrina expresses through similes how something like depression can look and feel differently every day.
Just like each individual, each mental illness is both unpredictable and often uncontrollable. Every one of these illnesses are just a fragment of a person’s personality, not the one thing that defines their character as a whole. If you or a friend is struggling with any of the topics discussed or more, I urge you to reach out to your parents, next years new school counselor, your parents, or an adult who you are comfortable speaking with.
Take care of yourselves Tritons.
The national suicide hotline is open 24 hours a day and can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.