Fight against the stigma of mental illness

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Story by Mariah Cowsert, Opinion Editor
Photo courtesy of CTV News Montreal 

I am living with anxiety and depression and I’m not afraid of it. The stigma that mental illness is taboo or frowned upon covers those suffering like a black cloud of smoke and is just as harmful as the illness itself. Stigmatizing those with a mental illness or putting them into a box casts a shadow on the issue instead of helping it. We need to start talking about it and being open to those we know who are living with a mental illness, we need to be patient with ourselves and each other.

You are not alone, you have supporters who will fight alongside of you. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—10 million, or 4.2%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. We need to start treating mental illness with the respect that we have for physical ailments, you would not tell someone who has just broken their leg to calm down or to get over it already—you sure as hell shouldn’t tell someone with anxiety those things but sadly it happens on a regular basis.

There is no face of mental illness and actions due to gun violence cannot keep being mislabeled as only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness and people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

I started truly making time to take care of myself after the fall of my sophomore year at Aquinas. I found myself diving deeper into my studies, relationships and heartache, work, writing, and family troubles and realized I was suffocated and wildly overwhelmed. My depression and anxiety was making it increasingly difficult to get through each day as I was disassociating myself from reality and dragged my feet that felt as heavy as weighted anchors. I let my roots grow further into the ground beneath the sheets of my bed and grew physically ill from my clouded head space. I’ve been battling anxiety and depression since middle school but it finally reached it’s peak and I realized I needed help.

College is incredibly difficult as you leave the comfort of home, delve into a challenging curriculum, meet an entirely new sea of people, and juggle many responsibilities all while trying to take care of yourself and have a social life. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 3 college students reported prolonged feelings of depression and approximately 7.5 percent of college students also reported earlier this year that they seriously considered suicide in the last 12 months. Be supportive, kind, and unafraid to talk about mental illness with those you trustbring to light more than what the media covers, the stigmatized idea that those with mental illness are crazy or can’t live a happy life.

Self care is a continuous act and you have to be patient with yourself to find what works best for you whether that be talking to a trustworthy friend, writing your anxieties on paper to free yourself, seeing a therapist, exercise, medicine, creating a safe space to unwind, freeing yourself from toxic relationships, or all of the above.

I’m fighting for myself by showing up, being present, acknowledging when something is out of my hands, and allowing myself to take up space—you should too. You are so much more than your mental illness.

About the Writer…

meeeee.jpgMariah Cowsert
is a junior studying Communication with a Theatre Emphasis and Journalism. She has been writing for The Saint since last fall and is excited to continue doing what she loves as Opinion Editor. In her free time she enjoys yoga, acting and technical theatre involvement, painting, talking in third person for bios, and reading.

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