Liza struggled with her mental health as she transitioned from her small hometown to college. Though moving to college exacerbated her situation, her struggles began many years ago.
In high school, she recalled conversations with her friends who could only confide in her regarding feeling depressed or stressed. Her friends’ family members would never consider sending them to therapy because there was a general dismissal of mental health issues in her community. Her friends’ parents believed that therapy is not needed unless someone was suicidal. Liza even noticed that when friends asked her about issues surrounding her mental health, she was hesitant to answer or tell the truth for fear that she would be judged.
When Liza was a senior in high school she would occasionally miss school to take a mental health day. She would tell her teachers that she “was really sick and couldn’t stop throwing up”. She could never bring herself to tell anyone the truth, that she just had a panic attack and needed to stay home.
Liza felt she couldn’t share her struggles with mental health because it wouldn’t be taken as seriously as a physical illness. Last year, she recalled that a teacher questioned her friend after skipping school. He kept asking what exactly she was sick with and why she was missing school. Her friend finally broke down and revealed she had an anxiety attack. The teacher did not believe that was a good enough excuse to miss school and gave her a 0 on the test she missed. From then on, Liza said she had severe stomach pain and indigestion whenever someone questioned her absence.
Now in college, Liza realized that stigma surrounding mental health negatively affected her path to receiving help for mental health. She was raised in a community that believed mental health issues were private matters that are never spoken about.
Stigma around mental health has been an issue for decades. Liza may have been able to improve her mental illness earlier in life if she had felt comfortable to seek help.
We can all work to fight against the stigma surrounding mental illness by sharing our mental health stories with people in our community and helping to educate those who may not know how common struggles with mental health really is. By talking about mental health we can help form a society that takes a proactive approach to treating mental illness.