Reducing the stigma of mental health issues through awareness

September+is+Suicide+Prevention+Month.+Juniors+Natalie+Wilson+and+Sherry+Hu+share+their+experiences+with+mental+health+and+why+it+is+important+to+get+professional+help+if+you+are+struggling+mentally.

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September is Suicide Prevention Month. Juniors Natalie Wilson and Sherry Hu share their experiences with mental health and why it is important to get professional help if you are struggling mentally.

In classes all across campus, the start of 2nd period on Monday was dedicated to Suicide Prevention Awareness Day. According to the CDC, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. However, for teenagers, the statistics are even higher. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34. 

To reduce the stigma and highlight the importance of open conversations regarding mental health, September is known as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

We want our students to know that they do not have to struggle alone, it is ok to not be ok,”

— counselor Amanda Zambiasi

“Suicide prevention and mental health [month] are important and help us openly discuss mental health by breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illness,” counselor Amanda Zambiasi said. “We want our students to know that they do not have to struggle alone, it is ok to not be ok. We also know that talking about suicide, opens the door for individuals to report feelings or thoughts of suicide.”

Teenagers are constantly under unavoidable pressure, however, there is a line between being simply worried and feeling worthless and miserable. Mental illnesses are real, painful, and sometimes severe.

For junior Sherry Hu, this stress that comes along with being a high schooler, combined with family and peer relationships, has taken a toll on her mental health.

“I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t under a large amount of stress, whether it be from school, extracurriculars, or family. As a result, my mental health has suffered greatly. I’ve had moments where my depression was so bad I just completely shut down and can’t even function properly,” Hu said. “For the first 15 years of my life, I fought those battles by myself. And there were so many days where I lost and just stopped functioning. I stopped doing my schoolwork, talking to my friends and family, and just kept to my thoughts alone.”

Through Hu’s struggles of fighting these battles alone, she has recognized the importance of seeking a mental health professional.

“Now, I’m getting professional help to finally learn how to cope with, or at least lessen the impact of depressive thoughts and episodes. Therapy, despite the negative stigma around it, truly is so helpful,” Hu said. “There are days where I do nothing but rant, and even just doing that takes a huge burden off my shoulders. Through my therapist, I’ve learned so much about myself and my mind, and I truly believe I can heal with time.”

Everyone’s story is different, and for junior Natalie Wilson, struggles with mental health began in middle school.

“My experiences with mental health go all the way back to middle school,” Wilson said. “I first developed anxiety in 7th, it got so bad to the point where I was making myself sick so I didn’t have to go to school. Freshman year, I ended up developing terrible depression at the start of quarantine.”

Wilson also understands the importance of seeking professional help.

“I am so grateful to have medication for my struggles with mental health and have the privilege of seeing a therapist,” Wilson said. “It’s so important to seek out help because so many people love and care about you, even if you feel like you are so lonely and think that you have no one. Chances are, so many people around you are struggling with similar things as you.”

Although this month is centered around suicide prevention, Zabiasi stresses it’s important that students recognize any instance of suicidal thoughts or mental illness.

If you can’t get in touch with a professional, reach out to a friend, family member, or anyone that you can trust because I promise, it will make the burden so much easier to carry,”

— junior Sherry Hu

“We want to continue to educate students on signs of mental illness and how to report this to a trusting adult if they have concerns about themself or a loved one,” she said. “One of the most important messages regarding suicide prevention is to always show empathy to those around us.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental health struggles should never be fought alone and there’s always someone to reach out to. 

“I know this is an over-saturated phrase, but if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety please tell someone. You don’t have to struggle alone, because I did, and it was awful and tiring every step of the way,” Hu said. “If you can’t get in touch with a professional, reach out to a friend, family member, or anyone that you can trust because I promise, it will make the burden so much easier to carry.”

Suicide Prevention Month by Rachel Kim