The Fight Within

The underappreciated epidemic that is mental health

Molly Murch, Staff Writer

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“Get over it already. Just be happier,” they say. “Go out and have some fun,” .

These comments are constantly thrown around as an attempt to somehow cure those with mental illnesses. What people fail to realize is that, like the flu or a broken leg, simply telling someone to get better, won’t help.

Of course, cancer, heart disease, and other physical health issues are all important. However, compared to mental illnesses, they receive more attention and are seen as more severe. Nobody ever tells a cancer patient to “just snap out of it”.

September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day. At the Lewis & Clark Landing in Omaha, Out of Darkness Walks, a program arranged by The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), hosted an event in an effort to raise awareness for the issue. The enthusiasm shown on that single day though, is not reason enough to put the subject on the back burner and wait for next year to roll around. Every day is an opportunity to educate ourselves on how mental illnesses can affect us all.

Since ancient times, mental illnesses have had a negative stigma cast upon them; patients were even accused of being possessed by a demon. This gave birth to society’s opinions today.

“We don’t have an affordable and routine way to identify a mental health condition,” AFSP Nebraska Co-Chair Aileen Brady said. “It’s not an ‘easily’ diagnosed condition”.

This does not translate to mental health being less important though. In fact, according to The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 21.4% of teenagers will experience a serious mental illness sometime in their life. These disturbing statistics will not change if we can not change the ways people view mental health.

The reality is that MN is home to stress, drama and peer pressure. Many develop mental health issues, yet they do not always feel inclined to search for a support system. In fear of judgement, they hide away and mask their pain. They instead deserve our compassion.

“At the high school level people try to fit in,” community counselor Peggy Breard said.

No one wants to admit that they are having trouble or feeling down. This results in unresolved issues.

“When we feel hurt from depression or disorganized thoughts, we find it hard to explain to others, so we stay silent,” Brady said.

A problem may start out as minor, but as time passes and nothing is done, it grows until it affects even the littlest things a person does. For example, something as simple as a class presentation could ignite a spark of anxiety in a student. With a single counseling session, that feeling could be put to rest. Go without it and that feeling could escalate into a drop in school performance, a lack of self-esteem, or depression.

Teachers can help too by simply being open-minded and giving students a welcoming setting to get help.

“I think it’s important to advocate for that [mental illnesses] so people know that they’re not alone. So that people can ask for help,” Breard said.  

For years, mental health has suffered the weight of inaccurate assumptions. Mental illnesses are not a flaw and not something to be afraid of. We need to recognize that none of us are perfect; asking for help is a sign of courage, rather than a sign of weakness.

 

If you or someone you know is seeking comfort, treatment resources, or simply has questions, call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255; it is open 24 hours a day, everyday.

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The Fight Within