Being in an extracurricular with things that I love should be easy, right? I should be motivated and inspired, especially when it comes to writing an article to share with the Skule™ community. Except, that is not the case. This was a constant battle between me wanting to do something and not being able to do so: my mind did not want to let me. Other things I love in life also end up being a drag, despite my constant fear of failure or that my life is not going as planned. I never show up to events that have a lot of people and even missed out on my own F!rosh Week from being too overwhelmed. I thought I had no reason for this; then I learned that I experience mental illness.
Mental illness is any disorder that affects mood, thinking, and behaviour, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and more. According to Youth Mental Health Canada, all Canadians will know someone or have mental illness and 15-24-year olds are most likely to have them. A study done in 2016 by the National College Health Assessment on post-secondary students in Ontario, found that 46% had depression symptoms that affected their life and 65% had overwhelming anxiety in the past year.
Overall, it is easy noticeable that students are those who may experience this the most, and yet there are still stigmas and misconceptions surrounding it all. We need to make sure that it becomes easier to speak of these topics, and to get help. To accomplish that, we must uncover facts and myths:
Myth: People with mental illness are “crazy”
Reality: Those who experience mental health problems are people who are part of your everyday life. You should not perceive them differently. Another misconception is that those who experience schizophrenia are violent, but they are not and rather may just act unpredictably.
Myth: You need to have a reason to have mental health complications
Reality: Anyone can get affected for different reasons, through genetics or experiences. For mood disorders, a shift in mood can happen unexpectedly. You are valid for your experiences and there is no need to compare yourself to others.
Myth: Depression is just sadness
Reality: Depression symptoms vary from person to person and can include trouble concentrating, lack of motivation, feeling of helplessness and physical symptoms including fatigue, appetite changes, constant aches and pains.
Myth: Anxiety is just improper stress management
Reality: Anxiety includes extreme worry and fear in certain situations for no logical reason. Symptoms are often physical including nausea, shaking, increased breathing. There are many types of anxiety disorders, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Panic Disorder.
Myth: Being bipolar is just constant mood swings
Reality: It is instead a cycle between manic periods (high energy and energized behaviour) and depressive periods (hopelessness, sadness) that can last weeks.
Myth: You are lazy and selfish if you take “mental health days”, or if you claim to not have motivation
Reality: Mental health can affect productivity, interest in activities and make it difficult to simply get out of bed. There are often no explanations why certain days may be like this, but it is completely okay to take a day off to rest your mind.
Myth: “Just get help”
Reality: Almost half of people who have experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression have not seen a professional – mostly due to stigma around it. It is currently not as widely accepted to seek help for mental health as it is physical and takes a lot of courage to seek assistance even if many resources are provided.
There are many other misconceptions surrounding mental health, and it is incredibly important for us to get informed. With my own experiences, I was always afraid that people would perceive me differently, and that it was selfish to focus on myself. We need to discuss this now in order to help students. Our lives are very busy and stressful, from things surrounding homework, work, living, extracurriculars, and more, but we need to ensure there is time available for our own health. It is necessary to understand that everyone is in a different place in their life and each of us faces challenges differently. We should not compare ourselves to others and are valid for our feelings. Our mental health should always come before school despite how hard it may be to realize that. Checking up on friends and classmates is key to making a step in the right direction. Mental health affects your entire life. Let’s make it a better conversation.