Ruth, August 15, 2018

Some people with depression are made to feel like it is their fault for feeling the way they do and are told to simply ‘get out more’ and ‘snap out of it’. Similarly, those who have anxiety or OCD are told to ‘pull themselves together’ and to ‘stop worrying over little things’. From the surface this advice may seem like it does little damage to the overall image of mental illness but, in reality, it generates stigma towards it and actually does more harm than good.
 
I know this because it happened to me. When I was going through depression I had people telling me to get over it and wanting me to brush off what I was going through. But  it was extremely difficult to do that. It felt like there was a constant dark cloud above my head that wouldn’t go away no matter how hard I tried to ease my mind. There were days when I felt that it wasn’t worth it to get out of bed because all the energy and motivation that I once had had been diminished. Simply trying to carry out everyday tasks required a huge amount of effort due to the overwhelming amount of emotional pain that I was experiencing. 
 
I experienced this period of depression for just over a year and a half. At first I kept it to myself because I thought it was just a short-term problem that would soon be over. But it wasn't. It started to hugely affect me and I soon found it difficult to cope. It began affecting various aspects of my life such as my relationship with my siblings, friends as well as my progress at school.  So one day I decided that enough was enough and went to my gp to get help. Although my family were not supportive when they eventually found out, I gradually picked myself up and started to become more self-aware. Even though I still find myself having some down days, I now have a higher level of emotional intelligence and I am much more conscious of the general concept of mental illness as I have gone through one myself.
 
But this is only one story about a young person who has experienced a mental illness. In reality, mental illness is actually pretty common among youth. For instance, figures show that 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in a given year. This increase in mental health issues amongst youth may stem from a range of issues such as being severely bullied, experiencing some kind of trauma from a young age or by having a gene that makes an individual more vulnerable and predisposed to mental illness.
 
The fact that mental health problems amongst youth are on the rise greatly concerns me. As it happened to me I know just how difficult it can be. It can be difficult to tell someone close to you if they aren't aware about mental health and they don’t have a clear holistic view about it. My parents grew up in a completely different time and culture to me so they are not completely aware of the general concept of mental health and illness. Therefore, they were not able to give me all the advice that I wanted to hear and the courage that I so desperately needed. But from what I know now I know it’s not their fault and I’ve learnt to have compassion for them as they were not exposed to the knowledge and information that I’ve been exposed to today.
 
So whether or not you feel that yourself or anybody that you know may be suffering from a mental health problem, do not simply ignore it. Do some research on mental health and ask yourself and others how they are because the mind is a powerful component and can manifest itself in many different ways.  

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Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.