Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Those Suffering from Mental Illness Need Not Suffer Alone

This column was contributed by Arden Robinette, ’16
Listen. You may not want to. You may not want to even be speaking to anyone right now. You might just want to be alone with the struggles and fears that have begun to haunt you. But listen. Really listen.
Maybe you’ve been feeling off lately. Maybe it started with a failed test that you spent hours studying for. Maybe it was the realization that you don’t know what you’re doing with your life. Maybe it was a friend abandoning you, or a loved one passing, or just a day where nothing went right. Whatever it was, it changed something; the world doesn’t look as bright as it used to.

Maybe you’re feeling depressed. Anxious. Fearful. Maybe your self-esteem has plummeted to an all-time low, and you’re coping by eating too much or too little. It could be that you just don’t want to get out of bed anymore. You don’t believe that any of this could happen to you. And even if it did, you wouldn’t be looking for help, because only crazy people need therapy. Right?

Society places such a massive stigma on mental illness that it’s hard for anyone affected by it to get help, or even recognize that something is wrong. We are trained to believe that happiness is a choice, and good mental health is just a test of will. If you stay positive and think happy thoughts, you will avoid mental illness, just like taking vitamins and sleeping for eight hours a night will prevent physical illness. This generalization is not only wrong, but harmful.

There have been very few studies on mental illness on college campuses nationwide, so it is difficult to provide statistics. Much of this is because mental illness is a problem that is often overlooked due to its intangible nature. Mental illness is not a statistic that can be measured. The type and severity of mental illness is unique to each person and is therefore hard to recognize. Another reason mental illness is not discussed is because people are unwilling to discuss their possible mental illness, either because they do not recognize it or they are ashamed of it. Again, because severity varies from person to person, someone may not recognize their own illness because it does not fit with the “traditional” diagnosis. Others feel that mental illness is a sign of weakness, and do not want to admit their “weakness” to friends or family members.

Though the current “Information Age” has made communication easier and faster, our society still remains silent on some important issues, including mental illness. As a society, we focus so much on physical health, staying fit and eating a healthy diet. Yet we forget how to take care of the mind. However, there are resources for this––family, friends, professors, mentors, peer support groups on campus and especially the Counseling Center. Despite the cultural pressure to “suffer in silence,” it has still produced many survivors of mental illness, and people struggling with mental illness would be surprised to see who else has dealt with those same problems.

To anyone who is currently struggling with a mental illness: Whatever you’re feeling, it’s okay. You don’t have to struggle alone. Your struggle is a real problem, and you have the right to ask for help in getting through it. Be open to receiving help and be ready to commit to healing. People may tell you that your illness is not a real illness. They’re wrong. Know that we, your friends and peers, are here for you. We believe you, we believe in your problems and we believe in your ability to overcome them. So long as you take that first step and ask for help, you are not alone, and never will be.

Active Minds is a nationwide organization attempting to raise mental health awareness and encourage a dialogue on mental illness on college campuses. We meet on Tuesdays at 4 p.m. in the Glover Alston Center, and meetings are open to anyone who wants to help us raise awareness, whether or not they have been personally affected by mental illness. Watch for Active Minds displays around campus during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb. 24-March 2) and come visit our table in Reid Campus Center at lunch to learn more. For more information, contact co-presidents Tara Mah ([email protected]) and Kristen Wiseman ([email protected]).

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