A World Where Mental Health Is Not An Excuse Is Inexcusable

A World Where Mental Health Is Not An Excuse Is Inexcusable

Don't make us another statistic — we make up enough as is.

One in four people, between the ages of 18 and 24, have a diagnosable mental illness.

I am one in four. My best friends are one in four. Almost every single one of my friends lives with a mental illness every single day. We are busy college kids, balancing full course-loads, jobs, Greek life, family, social events, sleep, self-care — the list goes on and on.

Amidst all this chaos in our external lives, we are dealing with mind games of our own creation. We are battling our mental illnesses all the time, and sometimes there is no break.

Some of the harsh stigmas surrounding mental health have been lessened in the past few years, though many more stigmas remain, and with this came the idea of a "mental health day."

A mental health day is just like a sick day — it is a day where you stay home from work or school to take care of yourself. Just like missing work because of a nasty cold, people take a sick day to take care of themselves mentally and get back on track.

The truth is, taking a mental health day is critical for many people. Struggling with a mental illness is incredibly draining, mentally and physically. Not only are you facing yourself, but the rest of the world cannot see your illness, so they often call b.s. and discredit mental health.

Enter college students.

The stress of working part-time to pay bills while taking 18 credits of 300 and 400 level classes adds up. You miss your family, and you are trying to find who you are. Everyone wants to know your plans post-graduation, when you are graduating, and what you are doing with the rest of your life.

We don't have the answers. Sure, some do, but most of us? We are scared to death. We don't know anything. Twelve years of school did not prepare us to make decisions in college — nobody taught us how to pay our taxes, how to pick a career, how to buy a house.

Throw mental health issues into the mix, and you've got a 21st-century college student, constantly in crisis and struggling to make it out alive.

This is my reality. This is the reality of thousands of young adults across American and the world.

The suicide rate in 18-24-year-olds has tripled since the 1950s.

In the next hour, 12 teens and young adults will commit suicide.

2,000 people complete a suicide attempt every single day across the globe.

We have a problem here. We have a mental health crisis, and we are not addressing it.

Not only are we in crisis, but we are making things worse by encouraging stigmas and not allowing mental health to be the illness it is.

This metaphor's been used more times than I care to count, but I'll say it once more: You wouldn't tell someone with cancer to just "get over it." So why do we tell people with mental illnesses too?

Mental illnesses are just as serious and life-threatening as physical illnesses. Mental health needs to be taken seriously.

Professors, employers, parents, friends — everyone needs to step back and start recognizing mental illness as a valid excuse for missing responsibilities.

I am penalized if I miss class or work. Sure, we are given so many "sick days," but what if I really get sick? What then?

So I push forward. I refuse to take a break, even though I might really need it. All because saying I need a break for my mental health is not enough.

This has to stop.

Stop making kids prove their mental illnesses are real. Stop telling college students their lives are nothing compared to the real world: news flash, some of us do more than you. Stop refusing to accept that mental health is a valid reason to take a break.

Don't make us be yet another statistic. We make up too many as is.

If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-273-8255.

You are enough.

You are enough.

You are enough.

Visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for more resources and information.

Cover Image Credit: Mallorie Jordan

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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