Health columnist: ‘Why we need to start talking about mental illness’

By: Grace Bruening – Health Columnist

Did you know that one in four college students suffer from mental illness? America has a problem: In today’s world, we are scared to admit how we truly feel simply because it is not the societal norm. We are in constant competition with who can “be the happiest” or “care the least,” while, too often, we are ignoring the pain that we feel when we are left out, lost or helpless.

I’ve had anxiety my entire life, but it never became extremely prevalent until I got to college. I always thought I was an over-thinker, a perfectionist. Little did I know that these two bad habits would create a constant nagging voice in my head telling me what to do and why to do it. I could not anticipate that this would get in the way of friendships, relationships and my overall means of being happy—something which we all aim to be.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a disorder I would not wish upon my worst enemy. You’re trapped in your own head, which leads to a lack of attention, sleep and even enjoying life as a whole. I felt so sad inside that the only thing getting me through the day was pretending to be happy.

I was unknowingly faking my happiness. My happy personality was hiding the insecurity and vulnerability that were taking over my body. But no one could tell in the slightest.

“If they see you’re hurting, they’ll hurt you more.” This is what that voice would tell me. I felt I needed a quick fix to quiet that little voice and I was so desperate to get it. I could no longer control my own thoughts. You spend so much time telling yourself to not let that one thought into your head that it ends up fully consuming you.

I spent every second of my day trying to figure out why I was anxious and depressed with my “perfect” life. I felt that I had the perfect family, perfect boyfriend, perfect best friends, perfect school and perfect sorority. Then I realized that was the problem. I was thinking everything was “perfect.” It hit me right in the face one day, the day a counselor helped me realize that life is not perfect. I needed to stop spending so much time perfecting every aspect of my life, or else I would always be left disappointed, let down and downright depressed. This realization has helped tremendously in the healing process for my anxiety and has allowed me to gain some of my confidence back and love my life for what it is, not what I want it to be.

My purpose in writing this is not to throw myself a “pity party.” I am writing to share how incredibly lucky I am to not have the worst of it, to be able to get out of the darkness and to have learned something from it. I want to bring awareness to mental illness.

My purpose in writing this is not to throw myself a “pity party.” I am writing to share how incredibly lucky I am to not have the worst of it, to be able to get out of the darkness and to have learned something from it. I want to bring awareness to mental illness.

Back when my parents were growing up, you didn’t often hear about one taking their own life, and if you did, it was out of the ordinary. I am 20-years-old and guess how many people I know who have taken their own lives? Five. That’s five too many. People can feel helpless and trapped, and their only way out is suicide. With mental illness, you think you are alone even when you have more than enough friends and family who would drop anything to be there for you. I always wonder why it has to reach the point of someone taking their own life for people to realize mental illness is real.

One of the biggest contributors to mental health illnesses is what we all do best: social media. We spend most of our day scrolling through highlight reels of someone’s life because, let’s be real, who Instagrams a snapshot of what ruined their day? Who Instagrams themselves curled up in a ball on their bed because their anxiety and depression just won’t go away? We spend hours on end proving to others that we’re happy and content, even when some of those people on your Facebook feed could be in a counseling session for bipolar disorder as you’re viewing that picture.

We need to be aware. We need to be open. We need to be caring.

If you’re reading this and have been able to relate to the emptiness and loneliness you struggle with daily, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. There are others out there hurting, they may just be hiding it. My first advice is to seek help. Do not be ashamed. You are human, you have feelings and that shouldn’t be a roadblock in allowing you to live life to the fullest. See a counselor or open up to your friends. You’d be amazed at how understanding your best friends will be. Find your happy place and don’t be afraid of revealing who you really are, insecurities and all.

If you’re reading this and can’t quite relate to ever experiencing a mental illness, you can still help. You can help by being aware of the situation and being open to lending a helping hand to those who need it. Be the person to push those suffering to seek help, not push them to the side. Encourage a friend to talk about it, don’t ignore the warning sides or accuse someone of being dramatic. If you could save someone’s life by asking someone how they’re doing, would you do it?

If you or someone you know needs to speak with someone, call 937-229-3141 or visit the Counseling Center online or in Gosiger Hall. If you need immediate help, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 – or the Trevor hotline for LGBTQ Suicide Prevention at 866-488-7386.

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