Making Changes

The Center for Disease Control reported that suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-34. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that 1 in 4 adults experience mental illness in any given year. USA Today College reported that nearly fifty percent of college students started to feel hopeless in the past year and that one in twelve college students has made a suicide plan. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that said about 20% of teenagers (people aged 13-18) will experience, or have experienced, mental illness, while about 25% of teenagers will experience, or have experienced, an anxiety disorder.

            This is all just to say that mental illnesses are a lot more common than we think—in adults, in college students, in teenagers and children. And yet, despite this prevalence, mental illness isn’t discussed. Moreover, there’s stigma associated with having a mental illness. Someone, somewhere along the way, decided that having a mental illness meant that you were broken, and that that was not okay. It became an unspoken rule in society that if you have a mental illness, you don’t talk about it. It’s ugly, it makes people uncomfortable, and it’s just not okay.

            One of my favorite days on Twitter is #BellLetsTalk. Bell, a Canadian cell phone provider, donates money for every tweet made on that day with the hashtag. It’s meant to bring awareness and raise money, and it’s the one day that my Twitter feed is filled with people being vocal with their stories or with the stories that have impacted them, coming together because they all believe in a cause that is bigger than them.

            The stories that we hear and see during this day need to be talked about beyond those twenty-four hours. The awareness that is brought to mental illness during specific events and things like Mental Health Awareness Month is great, but it needs to now move beyond specific days and events to being every day. We are a generation that is struggling with this the most, and we are also the generation that can have the biggest impact.

            One of the most powerful moments in a person’s life is the moment that they realize they are not alone. That what they are struggling with is not wholly unique to them. People have gone before them, and people will come behind them. That there’s a hand stretching out, ready to help them up and hold it along the way, and a smile waiting for them. That there is someone saying that they’re there, ready to help them along the way, no matter what comes their way.  

            It’s hard to talk about your struggles. It’s hard to empathize with someone when you haven’t experienced what they’re going through. It’s not going to be easy—change never is. But it’s going to be worth it.