Mental Health Awareness: Beating the Stigma

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This story mentions suicide. Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies is urged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34 in the United States. Studies show that lack of education and resources regarding mental health could be a reason why some depressed teens could make an attempt on their own lives. The stigma of mental illness discourages many teenagers and young adults to ask for help.  However, it is essential to remember that there are other people out there that experience the same things every day, even some of the world’s most adored stars that seem to live perfect, lavish lifestyles.

Navigating teenage years alone is difficult but adding paparazzi and concerts to an 18-year-old’s schedule takes stress and anxiety to a whole new level. In an interview with Vogue, Billie Eilish said, “When people ask me what I’d say to somebody looking for advice on mental health, the only thing I can say is patience.” Eilish, an 18-year-old rising star from Los Angeles, Calif., “remains refreshingly open in conversations about the internal struggles that both teenagers and adults are grappling with today.” Eilish has always been vulnerable and ready to discuss mental health, as she has struggled with Tourette’s syndrome, body dysmorphic disorder, depression and anxiety since her early teenage years. Her music has given voice to those that feel alone and offers her listeners an outlet to connect through shared struggles. Eilish said, “Kids use my songs as a hug.” Her goal is to empower teenagers through music and to offer comfort those that feel uncomfortable in their own skin. As a young artist in the music industry, Eilish has acted as a spokesperson for this generation of young adults struggling with any type of mental illness. “Fox News” said, “Eilish has been candid about her struggle with depression in the past and has urged her fans to seek help if they’re having similar [suicidal] thoughts.”  Eilish encouraged her fans and said, “Please, take care of yourself, and be good to yourself and be nice to yourself. Don’t take that extra step and hurt yourself further. You can’t take it back.”

Eilish is known for her occasional dark lyrics and somber sound, which she was told would never make it in the music industry because it was not relatable. Eilish said, “That was just funny to me because everyone has felt sad in their lives. … A lot of kids don’t love themselves.” When Eilish’s “Bad Guy” won Song of the Year at the 2020 Grammy Awards, she thanked her fans immensely. During the acceptance speech, Eilish’s brother, Finneas O’Connell, said, “All of the kids who are making music in their bedroom today, you’re going to get one of these.” Eilish and O’Connell plant hope within teenagers to keep fighting and chasing their dreams.

Mental health is a stigma that has been tearing people down for years. High School Counselor Heidi Lloyd encourages people to ignore the awkwardness and embrace struggle by helping others. She stressed the importance of connecting and forming relationships with people and creating healthy habits in order to maintain confidence. She said, “Relationships and connection fills us up, gives us energy and life and helps us know we aren’t alone. Isolation and withdrawal can drain us and sometimes make our challenges worse.” People experience or are affected by some sort of anxiety or depression at some point in life. It is easy to pull away and become gripped by the feeling of loneliness and detachment. However, Lloyd put it best when she said, “When you carry the false belief that you are struggling alone, it only makes it worse. Other people are struggling, too. Take away the stigma and the harsh judgement. We are all trying to find our way through this world. The journey can be easier through connection.” Mental illness can be a hard pill to swallow; however, perfection is impossible. Lloyd said, “As a community, we should be willing to be more open, vulnerable and less judgmental. Show love and compassion. Seek help. When you know someone who is struggling, reach out to someone and help them.” Healthy habits are just the first step to a strong mind and a consistent lifestyle. Lloyd shared some of her steps to a healthy lifestyle. She said, “Be good to yourself. Not only in pursuing interests, but also in how you treat yourself and how you let others treat you. Exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep. These things are cliché but critical. Make a practice to be grateful in everything that you do and be intentional in balancing your life.”

Life is never promised. June 5, 2018 was a devastating day in the fashion world. On this day, Kate Spade lost her six-year battle with depression and was found dead in her Manhattan apartment. Spade, American fashion designer and founder of Kate Spade New York, was just one many of the world’s influential celebrities who had been held down by the chains of depression. Her husband, Andy Spade, said, “There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock. And it wasn’t her. There were personal demons she was battling.” Spade’s handbags “have been described as a symbol of New York City in the 1990s.” She was powerful in the fashion industry and had so much going for her life and career. The New York Times said, “No amount of performing undoes depression’s private power. When you are down under it, depression obliterates the world around you. It makes you feel as if the experience of being consumed by darkness will never end.” The importance of intentionality and being kind to others cannot be stressed enough in trying times. The internal battles one may be facing can easily be masked with what may look like a perfect, jubilant face. Spade left a 13-year-old daughter, husband, successful business and legacy behind. She provided the city of New York and the rest of the world with simple and beautiful handbags. She paved the way for many other influential designers to come.

Junior Allie Holmes shared that when she feels anxious, she likes to unplug and “go for a run or take a nap.” She said, “I am also very extroverted and get my energy from being around people, so sometimes I enjoy going out with friends to regain energy through social connection.” There are many different aspects of the world that influence anxiety and depression in teenagers today. Whether it be social media, the stress of school and making perfect grades, impressing family and friends or trying to rise to the standards that are expected of teenagers today, it can all be very overwhelming. Holmes said, “I think that the large exposure of information, especially false information, is a large stressor on teens of our generation active on social media.” Freshman Anslee Davidson agreed with Holmes that social media can sometimes affect the mind negatively. Davidson said, “I think, even though it sounds cliché, social media plays a huge role in anxiety in teenagers. We are constantly comparing our lives, friends, and hobbies to those of others and that can make us feel anxious.”

Holmes also understands that connecting with others and forming relationships is one of the first steps to a healthy mind. She said, “Building relationships with others tells you not only a lot about others and about the world, but also about yourself. You can learn a lot about how you work with people, what you need from people, and who you are as a person through reflecting on your connections and relationships.” In the world that we live in today, it is important to erase the incredibly overpowering stigma of mental illness. Holmes said, “The stigma around mental illness worsens an already over-bearing and destructive disease. If those affected by mental illness were able to share even a little of their thoughts, experiences, and emotions through various phases of their struggle without being labeled as ‘weak’ or ‘incapable’ then it would be easier to find support in others, and to eventually find themselves in a better mental state.”

In the world that we live in today, it is easy to feel judged and become insecure. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres experienced intense judgement when she came out as gay in 1997. In an interview with USA Today, DeGeneres said, “It took a while to shake off that judgment and the attacks I felt . . . I was fully honest with myself and that gave me confidence. I think that helps with depression. Depression eats away at your confidence and you get lost in that and forget that you’re enough just as you are.” In 2020, acceptance and understanding regarding sexuality has been more common. DeGeneres said the harsh comments and attacks in the late ‘90s made her feel as though she was completely alone, and she dug herself into a deep, dark hole. DeGeneres said, “If you ever have experienced depression, you isolate yourself and don’t reach out for help. You don’t say, ‘I’m hurting, I need help’ – you kind of crawl further into that dark hole, so that’s where I was for a while.” After years of struggling with depression, having little to no money, and searching everywhere for acceptance in the intimidating city of Los Angeles, DeGeneres eventually found the confidence to escape from the hole and is now looked upon as a brave and courageous woman for pursuing through the struggle of coming out at a time when the stigma was so harsh.

Pushing through the stigma of mental illness and embracing those struggling with open arms is something that has become more common throughout the years. It is important to become educated about mental illness in order to better prepare and mentor the future generation of people.





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