Over the past year, I’ve used my position on LION Newspaper to become a fierce advocate for mental health awareness and ending the stigma around discussing mental health. I’ve written and assigned numerous stories on helping students with mental illness and facilitating discussions about our mental health. But I’ve rarely shared about my own struggles with mental illness until today: World Mental Health Day.
While I believe that it is important to talk about mental health every day, I’m using today as an excuse to share my story in the hope that it can help others who are struggling.
My freshman year of high school, I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and minor depressive disorder. I struggled to get out of bed each morning and found it hard to stay social, even with friends that I had known my whole life. Just before finals first semester, a concerned friend called the Speak-up-Line on me because they were worried about me.
When I first found out that a friend did this, I felt betrayed, I felt that this friend betrayed my trust by telling someone else about my problems. However, a month later when I burst into tears in my first session with my new therapist, I realized that whoever made that call, saved my life. I wasn’t living, hiding in my bed on my computer for hours each day and spending Friday nights holed up in my room. Up until that moment, I didn’t realize how badly I needed help.
Three years later, I still struggle with anxiety and depression, but thanks to my therapist, I am actively living life. I hang out with friends, laugh frequently and when I need help, I’m not afraid to ask for it.
Two years ago on a the Illinois Youth Survey, 29% of my fellow members of the class of 2020, said that they had felt sad or hopeless for over two weeks. That’s about 290 students in just one grade. Talking about mental health has never felt more important, so I would like to address my peers in the hope that I can encourage them to help themselves or a friend in need.
To the kids who are struggling with mental illness: you are not alone. You are surrounded by people who love you and care about you. Teachers, friends and family alike are going to be there for you, they want to help you. In the words of my dad: “you can’t just survive, you need to thrive.”
To the kids who are trying to help their struggling friends: you are not betraying your friend’s trust by reaching out to a trusted adult. You are not equipped with all the skills to help a friend who has a mental illness. The best way you can help your friend is by making sure they receive care from a professional.
And to the friend who called the Speak-up-Line on me: thank you.
Speak-up-Line number: 708-588-7326 or email at [email protected]
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255