Out of the Shadows: An Open Discussion for Mental Health Awareness Month
As you walk down the hallways, the students of Nutley High School act like every other stereotypical student; laughing, meeting around each other’s lockers, making plans for lunch. Yet, what may seem like the typical life of high schooler from the outside can actually hide crippling sadness and despair on the inside. As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, I thought it would be important to shine a light on a mental illness that impacts about 1.9 million children ages 3 through 17 in America. The goal of Mental Health Awareness Month is to raise the public’s awareness about mental health challenges and disorders and to eliminate the stigma that often comes along with it.
Suffering from depression is not limited to students who have had a rough childhood. Depression is a mental illness defined as, “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest” while affecting “how you feel, think and behave,” that does not discriminate, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There are very important people in my life who seem normal from the outside, but on the inside they are struggling with mental illness and depression. They sometimes feel unenergized, lethargic, and completely hopeless. Sometimes depression is so crippling that suicide, which according to the CDC is the second leading cause of death for 15 - 24 years olds, is considered.
Yet, though this can seem scary, depression is not something to shy away from. It deserves to be talked about in such a way where people feel comfortable and can be vulnerable with their feelings. However, creating that space can be tricky especially if you are like me and don’t personally struggle with depression, but sympathize with their pain.
For some of my closest friends who suffer with depression, I found myself lost. This is uncharted territory for me. At times, I feel overwhelmed to the point where I cry uncontrollably, but I always find a way to regain control by breathing and putting in my headphones. However, for these very important people in my life, this is their reality: a mental illness I cannot fix. I hate that. I love being in control, but it is impossible to control someone’s emotions. There is no switch that I can flip to make them happy.
After time in reflection, I realized that my job was not to fix anything. I do not have magical powers that can change a mood disorder. My job is to provide the love and support they need.
This approach might not work for everyone who suffers from depression, and that’s okay. Yet in my experience, simply reaching out and letting that person know you care does more than you can imagine. It might not be the cure, but it could be the start to the road to relief. Even if your friends do not struggle with a mental illness, remind them that you love them. The world can use a little more of that.