In April 2022, Eli found himself making one of the most difficult decisions of his life. His depression had only gotten worse after studying at UCLA for a few months. He could not get out of bed in the morning to attend class. He was not eating enough. He was falling behind in his classes. Eli was overwhelmed and underprepared.
For the entire semester, Eli struggled with the thought of taking a break from school. He had anxiety about what his mentors would think, what his friends would think, what his parents would think. His parents were two successful real estate agents in Orange County and Eli felt pressure to be successful too.
Eli’s parents knew he was struggling, but not how severe the situation had become. In late April, Eli’s roommate Paul called his parents to express his concern for Eli’s mental health. After many discussions, it was decided that Eli’s best option was to defer his next semester and focus on getting help.
Eli’s mental health journey began long prior to this moment. Eli had three different therapists as a child. He stopped going to all three therapists at different points in his life because he felt different from his friends. Looking back, he knew that giving up three times prevented him from learning coping mechanisms and reaching a new stage in his recovery. Every time he moved on to a new therapist, he had to retell his whole life story. This left him feeling frustrated and discouraged. Eli eventually decided that the frustration he experienced was not worth it, he stopped seeing and discontinued his treatment.
After a few years without treatment, Eli’s mental health was getting worse. Now, Eli feels as though if he stayed with the therapist he had when he was younger, he would not have gotten to the point where he needed to defer a semester of university. He even believes that if he had gone to a therapist when he was younger, they may have been able to diagnose his symptoms before it was too late.
We need to promote early and continuous treatment of mental illness so students like Eli feel compelled to address their struggles sooner rather than later. Each of us can do our part in moving towards a society that promotes treatment of mental illness by encouraging ourselves and others to talk about our mental illness and the benefits of continuous and early treatment.