Taking Action Hand in Hand
Though I was always surrounded by people I loved, and who loved me, my world was extremely complicated as I grew up, and I endured both severe depression (which runs in my family) and complex PTSD from a very young age. Because I did well academically and kept my problems hidden, these struggles were almost completely overlooked when I was in school— but the journey was a painful one. I often felt confused: I worked hard, had friends, and kept busy with extracurricular activities I enjoyed... so why was I so miserable? I felt like a failure, was almost always angry, and couldn’t imagine actually wanting to live my life.
Now, years later, I still deal with both depression and C-PTSD, but I can say that, while I don’t always love life, I want to live it.
Within the last five years or so I’ve noticed a growing awareness of, and dialogue about, mental health, which was never present before. This has been extremely helpful in my own journey — but mostly, the new openness makes me hopeful for those who are now in middle and high school. I’m hopeful that these individuals will be able to find community, support and understanding. I’m hopeful that educators, and other faculty in schools, will develop more awareness — and more importantly, more compassion — about students’ illnesses. I’m hopeful that we’ll all begin to listen more closely, to hold others with hearts that are more open. It’s way too late to prevent school-aged-me from suffering to the extent that I did. But I’m so deeply hopeful that it’s not too late for other students.
I care about the future of mental health for so many reasons, but the biggest, most urgent reason is that we need — always — to do more to prevent suicide. I cannot think of many things more important than this. Of course, there’s no one way to prevent it, either on an individual or a more societal level. But one of the most solid steps forward we can take is to reduce isolation. Even people who aren’t lonely can feel overwhelmingly alone, burdened by, and ashamed of mental illness, and that can lead to tragedy. We need to help prevent this. We need to. I say this as a survivor of a suicide attempt in high school, but also as someone who has experienced the heartbreak of losing some irreplaceable, remarkable people, including a family member, in this way. All of it was preventable. So I am writing this for me, and for them — and for you. If you’re reading this, thank you for being here. Please don’t ever leave us.
Instead, let’s fight together. Let’s heal together. Let’s educate and learn together. The world can — and will — get its act together regarding mental health, and we can all help make it happen.