Today I thought I would talk about a difficult, but important topic. Unfortunately, most people our age have been affected by a mental illness, whether you yourself have one, or someone you know has one. Or maybe you have never had any experience with a mental illness, which I applaud you for because that is hard to come by. Although not everyone is vocal about it, most likely your peers have all encountered mental illnesses in one form or another.
In middle school, it was something no one dared to mention. Had someone been brave enough to admit they see a therapist, they would be labelled as the “unstable” child that you should avoid. Yeah, it’s a rough world out there. But coming from a small town of 4,000 people, you cannot speak of your weakness or the whole town will know by tomorrow. Maybe even your friends mom’s will tell you to have playdates with someone else. After all, they can’t have their child growing up with “bad influences” around them.
It didn’t get much better in high school, although they did designate some safe spaces for those that struggled in school due to their mental illness. One of the rooms was called “Lighthouse,” as if they’re saving you from being lost at sea? This room was VIP access only, because those “others” with mental illnesses had to be separated from the common population. But because most people covered up what was really going on in their lives, most were left to fend for themselves. If you dared to admit you had a mental illness you would be labelled as that “girl with problems.”
Have you ever seen the show on MTV, If You Really Knew Me? If you haven’t watch this trailer:
This is what my high school decided to do when I was a freshman to try to address the problem. They had to stop the program a year later because it ended up just feeding more juicy gossip that everyone could spread around the school.
What I’m trying to say is that it can be really rough in your teen years if you are someone that battles with a mental illness. Although you may not know it, but probably a handful of the people that sit next to you in class are dealing with a common disorder, such as anxiety or depression. The important thing to remember is IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. While society and your teen years may try to tell you that you are a rare species that needs to be kept away from everyone else because you are “different,” just give them the middle finger.
The stigma on mental illness in our society is ridiculous. I have seen more acceptance coming to college, but the stigma still exists. If you are someone struggling, know that you are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not any less than the person who has never confronted mental illness. You are not a bad person. You are not rare.
There are a million great resources out there, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, they have great resources about finding treatment or crisis Helplines.
Here are the facts according to NAMI:
Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help. It’s best to reach out for support rather than suffer in silence. As tough as life may get and as low as you may feel, it really does get better. Give it time. Surround yourself with people that make you happy. Don’t let stupid people affect you from living your life.
The hard times will pass, I promise.
P.S. if you are in the DC area this summer, you should come to the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It’s an overnight walk to help fight the stigma on mental health and put a stop to the many lives that are lost everyday.