Students Cope With The Stigma of Mental Health Issues

Nicholas Towle, Staff Reporter

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In our society, a stigma often follows people who su er from mental health issues: From depression and anxiety to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia to addictions and more. But these people are just like anyone else, and they are everywhere, even here at Shorewood.

Della*, a junior, suffers from anxiety, depression, and PTSD as a result of her father’s mental issues and traumatic experiences with many of his girlfriends. She has lost her memory of many incidents, including the time when her father’s fiancé threatened her with a knife (she was told of the incident by family). However, she does remember the time the same woman threatened suicide in front of the entire family. She suffers panic attacks when triggered by the sight of a car similar to that of her abuser, as well as various other things of this nature.

Della has seen an improvement in acceptance of people with mental health issues over the last few years, but in recent months, she believes the “triggered” meme and similar phenomena are eroding this progress.

When people say, “I’m so triggered,” Della says the legitimate concerns of people who su er every day from mental illness are belittled.

People with mental illness may have to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate their illness, according to Della.

“Mental illness is kind of a hobby that you’re born with,” she said, referring to the weekly therapy sessions and daily mindfulness practices she uses keep her on track to improving her mental health.She says that people with mental illnesses must o en a end therapy, psychology sessions, and support groups, and take medications or meditate daily to improve their mental health.

Cecily*, a senior, also has anxiety, depression, and PTSD, a result of sexual abuse during early childhood, which she kept a secret for fear of getting in trouble, as her abuser said she would, or making her family feel ashamed of her. She eventually became suicidal, feeling like a burden to everyone around her, but sought counseling. She waited a long time to ever tell the counselor that she was suicidal, but eventually she did disclose this and also built up a network of close friends and family she can trust, and as a result of this, she has made great progress toward accepting herself and becoming con dent in her identity.

Cecily has grown so much as a person as a result of her experiences and illnesses he used to live her life only so as to not be a burden to others, but now she has learned to be con dent and look out for herself as well. In this way, she believes that recovering from trauma and mental illness can be a great asset to a person.

Cecily believes society is moving in the right direction towards acceptance and de-stigmatization of mental illness. In middle school, she used to sometimes get reactions from people saying things like, “Is she crazy?” but for the past few years, she has go en mostly under- standing responses.

Eleanor*, a senior, suffers from type-one bipolar disorder (bipolar I) and borderline personality disorder (BPD). She suffers from drastic changes in mood over the course of several weeks from her bipolar I and significant changes throughout the day from her BPD (within the framework of her exist- ing mood from bipolar I).

She goes through manic phases where she is very happy and active and her BPD mood swings range in the eld of more positive and energetic emotions. She also goes through depressive phases when her mood ranges in the eld of down, irritable, sad, etc. When Eleanor tells people, she says many people assume she is crazy and feel intimidated by her.

She says they fear she will lash out at them unexpectedly. Eleanor says this is not true, as she has learned to manage her disorders very well, but that doesn’t stop many people from assuming the worst.

She is very comfortable talking about it with close friends, but she would never want the general public to know what she faces because she fears being misunderstood.

When people flippantly toss around mental illnesses jokes such as, “ the weather is so bipolar,” Eleanor is annoyed. On the one hand, she sees this as a sign that society is becoming increasingly comfortable talking about mental illness, but on the other hand, she feels it is just ignorant. As well as our society has done in recent years in creating a safe place for people with mental illnesses to be comfortable in themselves, there is still work to be done. Certain language and culture trends among those who misunderstand what others are going through can pose new challenges for people struggling with mental illness, even as we become more accepting in our outward attitudes.

As soon as we understand that mental illness is all around us and in our school, and that Della, Cecily, and Eleanor are not the only students among us suffering from this, we can continue to create a culture that allows for healing, both here at Shore- wood and across America.

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Students Cope With The Stigma of Mental Health Issues