I have been living with recurrent major depression and anxiety for over 9 years. At age 12, as I was just beginning my first year in middle school, I experienced my first depressive episode. For most days of the next two worst years of my life, I was irritable, constantly fatigued, unbearably sad, frustrated and angry with myself, hopeless, distressed, and alone. Every single day was a battle with my illnesses. I became self-destructive and suicidal. I was incredibly sick, and I desperately needed professional help. But, because of a lack of visible resources and the general state of education on mental health, I never received that help.
I managed to make it through this and many more episodes of depression – I am now healthier than ever since I finally started counseling and medication last year – but there are so many people who have not been able to. Too many people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 found that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall in the U.S., and the second leading cause of death of people between ages 10 and 34 in the U.S., killing twice as many people as from homicides. In 2014, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimated that 43.6 million U.S. adults – an entire 18.1% of the U.S. population – had some mental illness in the past year. It is important to remember that there are many other mental illnesses and struggles aside from depression and anxiety that are also painful, debilitating, and significant.
The topic of mental health means so much to me. It affects every part of our lives; it affects our physical health, emotional health, relationships, hopes, dreams, and drives. It affects our ability to live our best possible lives. It is so tremendously important that everyone is able to get the help and care that they need, but that is not the current situation. Mental health as a whole is still largely misunderstood, undervalued, and disregarded in most parts of the world.
The first and biggest way we can improve mental health education, awareness, and availability of treatment is by speaking about it. In this issue of FORUM, students and professors have shared their personal experiences with and advice on mental health. We hope that their voices motivate and inspire you to share your own experiences. If you are comfortable, please be open and active in discussions. You could help someone realize, “Hey, I’m not the only one,” or help them finally understand what it is that they’re experiencing. These things can mean all the world to someone who is struggling. We can each foster an environment that is open and safe for mental health discussions. We can destigmatize and normalize mental illness and psychological treatment. We can help each other live our best lives. We don’t have to struggle alone in silence.
To continue reading the October 2016 Mental Health Issue click here.
Amanda Awad is a graduating psychology major who hopes to get her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and become a mental health professional. She is both Director of Media for OUFORUM and Outreach Coordinator for OUr Mental Health. She is passionate about intersectional social justice, cats, music, and nature.