By: Elizabeth Kamel
In light of Mental Health Awareness month, I feel that it’s imperative to spark a conversion on mental health. These are words that are rarely spoken about, especially in college. College is supposed to be the best four years of your life. Or that’s what people say. But rarely do young adults talk about the struggles they had with making friends, adjusting to college life and this newfound independence. Not to mention the drug and alcohol use that teenagers entering college are unaccustomed to.
There is such a negative stigma against getting help from a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. If you’re on antidepressants in college, you certainly aren’t going to talk about it, and you’re probably going to lie and tell your friends they are allergy pills.
My school has the counseling offices in the same room as the infirmary, so students sneak in thinking that no one will know they are going to talk to a therapist. That’s what I did. And when I went to the school therapist every week, I went there in secret. In the waiting room, the other students stared at me. We all were dealing with different issues, whether they were adjustment issues, family issues or something of the like. But we all had one commonality. We were dealing with some form of depression or anxiety. And we were all trying to hide it from our friends and family because, for me, it was embarrassing. Because apparently talking to a professional about personal issues makes you weird or weak.
The difficulty with depression is that when it reaches a certain intensity, it starts to become impossible to hide.
I no longer wanted to eat. I lost weight. I didn’t laugh or smile anymore, and my personality did a 180-degree turn. I am known for my piercing laugh and at that point of my depression, I felt like I forgot how to laugh. I didn’t think it would get better, and my parents had to force me to start an antidepressant because I refused to believe that anything would work. A switch had been turned off in my mind. My mental health was unsafe. I didn’t care, but my family and friends noticed right away.
Depression in college is so scary because becoming a “young adult” and not having your parents or guardians at every turn is daunting. And not to mention that students are still judgmental and condescending in college. No one wants to be the “depressed kid” because people form negative ideas about you and they attribute your sadness as a part of your personality.
No one can truly understand what depression is until they go through it themselves. Until you are at a point when you don’t have the strength to get out of bed in the morning, you can’t judge someone who suffers from depression. It takes a hold on you that is almost impossible to shake without the proper help. This help includes therapy and sometimes antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with needing a little extra help.
You can’t do it on your own all the time. You don’t need to only rely on yourself and keep your feelings inside. Because when you keep your feelings inside, that is when the damage is truly done. Depression is a slippery slope. Those who are severely depressed contemplate suicide and some decide that their life is not worth living and decide there is no other option but ending it. And for the people who decide to commit suicide, they feel like they have run out of places to turn and can’t find the strength to continue living.
Every breath is a dagger to their heart. They wake up sad. They go to bed hopeless. They don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. But that’s why the mental health field is so important and why this negative stigma against therapy and antidepressants is detrimental to young adults.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There always is. You may just see darkness now, but I promise the dark tunnel does end and you will see the light of day again. And you will smile again. And you will feel like you are worthy of living. I promise because I went through this. I waited through the dark time and went to a therapist every single week. And I told her that it wouldn’t get better, but, in time, it did.
This was three years ago, before one of my fellow College students, Paige Aiello, committed suicide. I rarely think about that time of my life anymore. But the four weeks where
authorities weren’t sure if Paige was missing or if she committed suicide, that’s all I could think about. All I could think about was whether Paige was getting the help she needed before she disappeared. On the outside, she appeared perfect. She was graduating cum laude with a communication studies degree and was a star tennis player. She was accepted to nine law schools and was about to start her time at Rutgers Law. She was, and still is, a beautiful person who is loved by many. Her friends and family mourn the loss of this amazing human being because she had so much to contribute to the world. The articles about her would always mention her smile and her kindness. But on the inside, she was hurting really badly. Hurting enough to look out into the Hudson River and make the conscious decision to leave her friends, family and future behind.
Depression clouds the mind to the point where you just can’t think straight. And that’s why I truly think that if you haven’t suffered from depression before, you can’t really understand what it feels like.
But it’s just so important to reach out for help. To tell your friends you’re struggling. To tell your parents that you just don’t have the strength to get out of bed in the morning. This doesn’t make you abnormal or weird. You just need some extra help. And you will get through it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The darkness doesn’t continue forever. You will prevail.