The struggle and stigma of mental illness

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April is Stress Awareness Month. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. There is a different colored bracelet for every cause. While well-meaning, they don’t do much for me. Awareness alone can’t alleviate my pain or quell my worries.

I have lived with diagnosed anxiety and depression for most of my life. My family and friends told me that I just needed to exercise or get outside more often. Others said I needed to take medication and see a therapist. Still others chided me that all I needed was to be more positive. Yeah, right.

I have tried every remedy under the sun, but most days are still a challenge—especially as a college student. Syllabi seem insurmountable. Assignments pile up and I feel hopeless. With mental illness, the internal struggle is real every day.

But every time I say that I’m having a bad mental health day, I feel like my peers and professors only hear that I’m being lazy or just don’t want to come to class. When in reality, it may take all of my energy just to get out of bed that day. I am not my best self right now. I am not putting out my best work and I know it. But I’m not giving up on college. I want my degree no matter my diagnosis.

I want Metro State students dealing with these difficult issues to know that they are not alone. Even though it may seem like you’re the only one buried with homework, who doesn’t understand the subject matter, or who can’t seem to find any motivation.

If you’re reading this and identify with my struggle, know that there is help available. There are free, confidential counseling resources on campus, including individual and group therapy appointments. Metro State also offers a 24/7 confidential support line (651-793-1568).

Awareness is important, but we can do better. Everyone on campus—students, faculty, staff—should treat mental illness like a physical illness and a real reason for an excused absence. We must give more validity to students struggling in school because of mental illness.

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