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.