Editors note: Trigger warning, this column mentions topics of mental health and suicide.
The topic of mental health is a very personal one for me and many others in our WSU community. Every student has their own journey.
There is a trend of mental health crises and suicide attempts during the holiday season. Matthew Davidson (he/him/they), sophomore French and business major, credits his worsening mental health to location.
“I was stuck at home with nothing to do, and that I didn’t really have many friends to hang out with,” Davidson wrote in an email.
Aiesha Latourette, a senior biology and nursing major, felt a similar way.
“I felt alone and isolated and everyone I had been around constantly went home for break whereas I [was] in Pullman since December 24th [for work],” Latourette wrote.
I felt a similar way to Davidson and Latourette.
Although I love and miss my parents, I was not having my regular interactions with my friends and it was hard to relate to my parents. I missed my friends and my sorority sisters who would make me laugh until my stomach hurt.
Especially with the omicron variant spreading, I could not see many of my friends because I was worried about getting my high-risk family members sick.
To help cope with mental health struggles, it is a common practice to see a counselor. When asked why they decided to start therapy, Davidson and Latourette had similar responses.
“I didn’t know how to properly handle events and emotions in my life,” Davidson wrote.
Latourette wrote that she struggled with her anxiety and depression.
It is great to see how these two students were able to self-assess and recognize that the way they were feeling was not normal. Often recognizing that there is a problem is the hardest part.
In my experience, I thought that the feelings of hopelessness and self-hatred were normal. It took me years to come to accept that I was not only wrong, but I needed to change that way of thinking.
In August I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and started on antidepressants and therapy.
For me, therapy was eye-opening. Someone was not only listening to me but validating my emotions and helping me find solutions to problems in a healthy way.
Overall, I learned how to better approach problems in my academic and personal life and find solutions without any crippling anxiety.
Mental health treatment and medication are surrounded by stigma. It is the stigma of being branded as weak or insane that kept me from seeking help when I was younger. Latourette wrote that she felt similarly.
“There is such a negative connotation about mental health issues. These connotations actually made me not want to reach out to people, like my family and friends,” she wrote.
Unfortunately, sometimes the stigma of mental health ruins relationships.
“A lot of my former friends pushed me away, just because they didn’t want to deal with me, and my emotional baggage,” Davidson wrote.
I had a similar thing happen to me on my mental health journey.
Some friends would invalidate my feelings and call me dramatic for being depressed. It took a long time for me to realize that these were not people I wanted in my life.
Both Davidson and I found that after those people left our life, we got closer to happiness and better mental health.
With winter break done and many of us making the journey back home to Pullman, we cannot ignore the hit our mental health has taken over the past month and the past few years.
“I sometimes feel like with our generation, we sometimes don’t give ourselves enough grace. We’re always grinding on ourselves, and when things go wrong, we tend to blame ourselves for not doing well,” Davidson wrote.
We are living through a global pandemic where many of us lost loved ones and are expected to continue to overload ourselves with classes, online or in person. Give yourself a pat on the back and congratulate yourself on getting through it, no matter how you did it.
Once I got back to Pullman and hung out with my roommate and sorority sisters, I immediately felt a weight being lifted off of me. Being with the ones you love and who love and accept you as you are, is an indescribable feeling.
I am very fortunate to have found these people in my life. I am also thankful for all of the speed bumps that have come my way.
Although I most certainly did not appreciate them in the moment, I know that they strengthened me into the person I am today and the person I will become.
But I need to remember, much like we all need to, that I could not have done it on my own.
Yes, I had my friends and family, but I also had my counselor and my medication. The people around me recognized the positive difference in my emotions and my outlook on life this past semester.
I am not alone in this experience. Latourette wrote about her overall experience with medication.
“I did not see any hope because no matter how much therapy and self-work I did, there was always just a rain cloud that made it feel like nothing would get better,” Latourette wrote. “Once I found the right medication I was able to focus on schoolwork, the rain cloud disappeared for longer times, and when I had my anxiety attacks I would have my medication that could calm down my nerves.”
I used to be the biggest basher of taking medication. I thought that if I was diagnosed and on medication, I belonged in an insane asylum and would never be successful in my life.
I could have not been more wrong. I have never been this happy, confident and successful without this type of support.
My outlook on life has completely changed. I thought I would not live past high school. But not only did I prove myself wrong, I am so excited for my future as a lawyer, a life partner and maybe a mother.
The message I wanted to send to all of you is a simple one: it is okay to ask for help. In fact, it is encouraged.
If the past two years have taught us anything, it is how resilient and adaptable we are.
College is a wonderful time and it is important to have fun and be young. But it is more important to be able to enjoy yourself when the party is over.