“I’m extremely sorry but one of your coworkers…he passed away yesterday evening,” my freshman RA quietly told me in a study room nearly a month and a half ago. After a moment of absolute shock, came horror, and then the incoherent sobs that ripped from my throat.
That sentence she uttered to me absolutely destroyed me. Not only was I learning and coming to terms with the fact that I had just lost someone I was close with, but I knew right then that it hadn’t been an accident or a crime. After his death, his father released a statement saying that my coworker, and more importantly, friend, had been suffering from a mental illness and had ended his life the previous night.
…only 30 percent of those people (struggling) are receiving the help they need.
There is an overwhelming feeling of guilt after losing someone to suicide. What could I have done differently? What did I miss? Could I have stopped this? …are all things that rattled around in my head for days and occasionally still do after my friend took his life. These questions, paired with stress from my personal life and school, drove me to personally seek help through my college’s counseling services.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and after everything that has happened in my life, I believe that it’s time we sit down and talk about it.
Mental illness is seen as a touchy subject, and although there has recently been a surge of conversation about mental health online, it is often avoided. There is a fear of being seen as weak if one goes and seeks help, however, roughly one in five people struggle with their mental health. This number is shocking, but what is even more alarming is the fact that only 30 percent of those people are receiving the help they need.
I once saw a comparison between mental illness and the flu. If you were suffering from symptoms of the flu, you would most certainly go visit a doctor and get the appropriate treatment so that you could get better. However, since there is such a stigma around mental illness, many do not seek out help, causing their symptoms to increase.
Mental illness surfaces in many forms, but mainly they fall under mood, eating, and neurotic disorders.
What you need to know about:
• The most common types are depression, mania and bipolar disorder
• Many people suffering from a mood disorder feel like they have no control over their emotions
• Extreme shifts in mood are indicators of a mood disorder
• The most common types are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating
• People affected by an eating disorder usually feel physically (or otherwise) inferior
• At least 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime
• The most common types are anxiety, specific phobia, and OCD
• Many people with neurotic disorders feel frantic and panicked
• 18 percent of the United States’ population are affected by anxiety disorders
When mood, eating and neurotic disorders are not treated, in most cases, suicidal thoughts or actions arise. According to suicide.org a teen takes their own life every 100 minutes. These are the people we are friends with, people we pass in the hallway, or if you’re like me, the people we had the opportunity of working with.
Genuinely ask how your friends are and actually listen to their answer.
So, what are the steps you should take if you feel as if you or someone in your life is suffering from a mental illness?
Talk to someone. Sometimes just starting a conversation can open doors that you didn’t know existed. By talking to a trusted friend, teacher, or colleague, we are able to find support, and sometimes, shared experiences regarding what you/your friend might be going through.
Suggest/seek professional help. Self diagnosing may be dangerous. By seeking professional help, you can be accurately diagnosed and given the correct treatment whether that be medical, nutritional or therapeutic.
Raise Awareness. Encourage your school to have programs on mental health or take the initiative to sponsor one yourself. Knowledge is power. Educating your peers can help start a movement to end the stigma around mental health, making it easier for people to reach out and ask for help when they need it.
So here are the things I ask of you after reading this:
I ask you to take care of yourself. At least once a week practice some self care, whether that be taking a drive to your favorite coffee shop or taking a long bath. I promise that a little self-care can go a long way.
I ask you to genuinely ask how your friends are and actually listen to their answer. Listen and look for signs of distress, and offer help and resources to them if you are worried.
I ask you to please stop making suicide jokes. “I want to kill myself” may seem like a funny response to something you’ve seen but it is triggering to those contemplating or recovering from suicidal thoughts. It is also extremely hurtful to those who have been affected by suicide.
Instagram has just launched a #HereForYou campaign. It encourages users to come forward and tell their own story in relation to Mental Health Awareness while using the hashtag #HereForYou. Not only does this campaign raise awareness but it also exposes users to a large support system of other people that have similar experiences or just want to help.
I encourage you to share your story as I have and end the stigma of mental health.
If you, or someone you care about is feeling fragile,You’re Not Alone. Please seek the help of a mental or behavioral health professional if you are unable to cope with your emotional pain. If you ever have any thoughts to harm yourself or others or to end your life, please reach out for help. National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1.800.273.8255. Crisis Text Line.