May is national Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. It is a time to raise awareness about mental illness and mental health and to provide support and education to fight stigma. The pressure and ongoing exposure to stress that college students experience leaves lasting ramifications. Over the last decade, college students have reported an increase in diagnoses and treatment for mental illness, and over half of students shared that they felt “overwhelming anxiety” in 2019. The pandemic restrictions in the last year have only made these problems worse.
Our Scholars Program connects college-aged youth and holds spaces for them to share their stories and build deeper connections to God, themselves, each other, and their communities. One goal is that they take actions that will lead to healthier individuals and communities. As a result, the emotional well-being of each scholar is an important ongoing focus. At our last meeting, one of the scholars shared their excitement about getting mental health help. We sat down with them to learn more about their journey.
Why did you decide to seek out mental health support?
I was diagnosed with depression a few years ago and I remember there being dark times. When I realized that I was frequently googling things like “why am I sad all the time?” something clicked in my brain, and I knew that was not normal. I decided to start seeking out help.
Once you decided to seek help, what was your experience like?
The summer before scheduling my appointment I had already started looking for mental health providers that would accept my insurance, but it was not until this spring that I finally made the call. I decided to start by calling my primary care clinic, I told them that I wanted to schedule an appointment. I was embarrassed to tell them why; it was awkward to tell them that I needed help for my mental health. I was so nervous. Fortunately, the outcome was a positive one and I am now matched with a therapist.
What have you learned during the process?
I am excited to start the healing journey. I am learning that trauma is passed on for generations and it saddens me that those who are suffering do not have the resources or openness to talk about how they have been feeling and to seek out help. Now I know that by taking this step for myself, I can stop the cycle of passing on my trauma to my future children and that gives me hope.
Why is it important that you share your journey?
In conversations with my friends, I noticed that they have been working through similar experiences to mine. I personally feel like it is important for everyone to find help if they need it, I am happy to be on this journey towards healing and I want others to be on it too. I am especially thinking of older generations who have not had the same support that younger generations have had in being open about mental illness and mental health help.
Thank you for sharing your story; we pray for healing. Can you share a closing thought?
The one thing I would like people to remember is to not be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If you do not, you are only damaging yourself, your loved ones, and others. I hope that my story inspires people to get help.
A Scholar’s Journey Toward Healing and Mental Health Advocacy, by Guadalupe Broetje, Scholars Coordinator