World Mental Health Day affects various SU students
Families aren’t always what they seem.
As a babysitter watching from the outside, Lexy Davis saw a happy family. She observed a mother who struggled until discovering her Prince Charming and a father with a stable job.
But after moving to Wyoming for her senior year of high school, Davis was shocked to find out the father had committed suicide.
Less than a year later, Davis found herself at Syracuse University trying to stop a friend from ending his life. Via texts and Skype, he kept saying, “I can’t do this anymore, and I want my life to be over.” She calmed him down and had him visit two weeks later.
Then it clicked: What made her happiest was helping other people.
Mental health has influenced many lives, including Davis’, now a junior child and family studies major. Oct. 10 marks World Mental Health Day, a time to raise awareness about mental health issues. This year’s theme is “Depression: A Global Crisis,” an issue that affects more than 350 million people, according to the World Health Organization.
This is the second year Davis has served as president of SU’s chapter of Active Minds. Active Minds seeks to start a conversation and eradicate the stigmas associated with mental health.
Through past experiences and a history of mental health issues in her family, suicide prevention remained important to Davis.
“Everyone goes through hard times, so why don’t we band together to just be like, ‘Hey, it’s OK not to be OK,’” Davis said.
It’s a phrase she frequently repeats.
And a phrase Mackenzie Hall echoes, a phrase that she wants more college students to be comfortable saying.
“You shouldn’t be scared to speak up and say, ‘Hey, I’m really sad and I can’t fix it,’ or, ‘I hate my body and I haven’t been eating,’” Hall said.
Hall, a sophomore anthropology major, joined Active Minds at the end of last year after a conversation with Davis in the Brockway Dining Center, where they both worked.
In 2003, when Hall was in the third grade, she lost her sister to suicide. At such a young age, she didn’t comprehend what had happened, especially when she was told “it was an accident.” As time passed, she started questioning if it really was an accident and wondering why her sister did this.
Close to her sophomore year in high school, Hall bypassed her parents and Googled her sister’s name. She found out what happened through her sister’s friend.
Although Hall recovered from depression, deals with anxiety and has friends with similar situations, she acknowledges that mental health is stigmatized, at one time even for her.
Years ago, she wasn’t scared of someone who was depressed or had anxiety, but rather interested and thought of him or her as “different.”
“But the truth is they’re not different. Everyone is sad sometimes, and sometimes we have bad days. Regardless what your doctors ‘label’ you, it doesn’t make you ‘crazy’ or ‘different,’” Hall said.
But being OK doesn’t happen overnight, said William Mellen, president of the SU chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness, the largest mental health grassroots organization. Diagnosed only a few years ago with bipolar I disorder, he leads the organization, which provides support groups and other various events on campus.
It has been an inspiration for Mellen to see what people have accomplished with the heavy bags they’ve carried, especially when employers do discriminate.
But he has watched many students, particularly in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, avoid acknowledging their membership due to the stigmas.
Like these students, Hall once was overwhelmed by the stigma. Until now.
“When my doctor put this label to me, I was ashamed due to this stigma,” Hall said. “I am no longer ashamed. I am here to help others as well as help myself and fight this stigma.”
Contact Colleen: firstname.lastname@example.org
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