MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS
Whenever someone asks how my day is, my muscle memory immediately responds with “Good, how about yours?” with a fake confidence, as I promptly await the same response. We start conversations with the same hook, line, and sinker and expect to have a connection to the people we talk to everyday, and it stems from the taboo that mental illness shrouds itself in.
I would like to discuss the importance of mental health awareness. Mental illnesses are more common than one might think, especially in teens. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that suicide is the third leading cause of deaths in youths 10-24, and only 50% of youths age 8-15 received mental health services in the past year. That is the same probability of guessing a coin flip. But statistics about suicide do not tell the story of the young teen struggling to collect the motivation to get out of bed each morning because they are suffering from depression. The teen who feels alone, and wants nothing more than to reach out to friends, but social anxiety disorder takes a hold of them and holds them back. These untold stories are far from rare.
Having a healthy mentality is not just the absence of a diagnosis. Mental health, to me, also refers to the presence of positive characteristics in one’s life that improves quality of life. Anything to break up the manipulative monotony that drags us into a melancholy that wants to leave us motionless when it is done with us. These lifelines can range from something as small as warm tea before bed, to as monumental as having friends one can be open and honest with. School counselors and nurses can help provide resources to connect with occupational therapists and psychiatrists who will support you.
About 1 in 5 teens have a mental illness that affects them daily. Here is how we can comfort them on a personal level. If a friend having a hard time, let them know that you appreciate them, and are thankful that they are with you. The stigma about talking about mental health is a boundary, and that should be expected. It is important to respect the other person’s choice if they do not want to open up to you. If they make the brave decision to discuss their experience with you, do not make them feel as if they are wrong, bad, or stupid. To address how difficult it can be for many to receive health care, contact your local politician. You can contact our governor Jay Inslee, and our two senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to voice your concerns. If you would like to talk face to face with our local leaders, attend a town hall meeting and assert your opinions about what should be done to aid those affected by mental illness. Tell them we need access to affordable healthcare, education about mental illness in schools, and an increased amount of community support groups. The Adolescent Psychodrama Therapy group is a great example of one. These support groups would ideally help with transportation.
People affected by mental illnesses are fighters. Carrie Fisher, who played Leia in Star Wars, battled endlessly against the stigma of mental health before she was taken from us. She was diagnosed with bipolar at 29. She said, “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.”
How many of you have ever struggled with mental health? I know I have since I was 3 or 4 years old. It’s like being chained down with no escape.
The average person spends 55 minutes per day worrying, however someone with an anxiety disorder worries over 300 minutes per day. With the 6 different anxiety disorders I have, including General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety, Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I spend about 500 minutes worrying on an off each day. There are only 1440 minutes in a day, so I spend nearly half of the day worrying.
You probably know more than 20 people, and 1 in 20 struggle with America’s most common disorder - Anxiety. The reason this is such a big problem is because someone you know is struggling and they need your help.
But we have tools that can help us work on this issue such as coping skills. Coping skills include talking, using distractions like art or hobbies, and self-care. Together we can talk and bring this issue to light.
I need you to take care of yourselves and others with anxiety by helping them out. Take a bubble bath, or shower, do something relaxing, even brush your hair. Whatever makes you feel better, that is positive. If you or someone you know needs help, ask for support or support them. You can do this by saying to someone, “I need your help to be safe,” or listen to someone when they say, “Hey, I need help.”
This is important to all of us because a lot of people struggle with anxiety and it may be you or someone you know. Anxiety is like a monster who makes you afraid of the world and everything in it.