This May, I graduated from high school, and to be honest, I felt so accomplished that I thought that Mason was the place without any worries. This picture is artifact-worthy because it reflects what I have accomplished, but in some way, it represents what we as a community haven’t yet – particularly about mental illness
So I’m going to get a little serious here with all of you because I think all of Mason can agree that this has been a rough week in some rough years. This weekend has been particularly interesting for me because it has been one where I’ve never felt something go through me like before.
You see, two weeks ago, I went on a retreat to Camp Akita with my scholar’s program where I listened to some of my new friends’ stories. Stories that were unique from one another. Stories that were uplifting. Stories of courage. You see, these people, all not from near where I live, have faced unimaginable hard times in their lives, from friends and family, to schoolwork, just so that they could achieve what they have achieved so far. So I thought it would be important to remind everyone that they are worthy in this world and there are things waiting for them. And I told them that we all deserve to be treated with real respect and love because their voices do deserve to be heard. And I walked away feeling so inspired from these new voices of my generation.
And now, here I am, writing about our teenage society at a place where we have consistently been hearing problems about mental illness.
Last Monday morning I woke up to a tweet that led me to learn that a young beautiful girl from my hometown had taken her own life. Though I didn’t know her personally, a lot of things started running through me.
The fact is that in our society, we reside in a community that has been plagued with mental illness. And this is so shocking. So demeaning.
And I have to tell you all that I cannot stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in ineffable ways. So while I’d love to do nothing more than move on, it would be dishonest of me to just do that and pretend that this is all just a bad dream. Let’s be clear: this is NOT something we can ignore.
And to make matters worse, it now seems very clear that this is not an isolated incident; it just goes on to show how careless we are about a terrible epidemic that is smothering and infecting our mental health.
I’m glad to see some actions happening on social media right now, but…why did it take you all THIS long? Were you not struck earlier with earlier incidents? I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally and I’m sure all of you – especially those who have battled depression before do too.
It really hurts.
I may have made it through high school but I have been so abused in Comet Country in ways that are so shocking, so demeaning, that I simply will not write about here.
We thought all this was ancient history didn’t we? But here we are in 2017 hearing the same incidents again.
We are drowning in it.
Why are we pretending like mental illness doesn’t really bother us?
Is it because we think it makes us look weak when we do admit how much it actually does hurt?
Maybe we are afraid to be that vulnerable.
Maybe it has become so normalized to hear about this that we end up swallowing these emotions and staying quiet and seemingly unresponsive.
Or maybe it’s just that we don’t want to believe that there are people out there suffering horribly from something that now too many people treat as something that doesn’t need to be cured.
Too many of us are treating this as if this is normal, just life as usual.
This is not normal. This is not something we can ignore. This is about BASIC HUMAN DECENCY. And we cannot allow ourselves to endure this any longer, not for another minute, not for even another millisecond. Enough is enough! This is too much!
Because consider this: if this is painful to all of us as young adults, then think about what the impact is on our parents and our siblings, older and younger. What messages are we giving them?
Are we trying to say that everything they’re hearing about this is perfectly fine?
Because I can tell you that my family is normal and doesn’t take suicide as something to ignore. And to dismiss it all as if it doesn’t matter is an insult to all of us.
The parents that you and I have, do not treat this as something to ignore. They are loving mothers and fathers sickened by the thought of their own children even thinking of ending their own lives before they fully grow up.
And like us, these parents are worried about their children being demeaned and disrespected. And, they are worried about the impact of this kind of event on our younger children who look up to us young adults as role models.
We teach our kids that whenever they have obstacles in their lives, they should not give up and fight them with help from those who know and love them and can help in any way possible.
When we were younger, we always had help from our friends and family whenever we needed it, so what’s wrong with getting it at this age? Especially when it is more needed than ever?
In our hearts, we know that if we let these events slide and slide, then we are sending a very clear message to our friends, parents and relatives: everything that they are hearing about is perfectly fine. We are validating it. We are supporting it. We are telling them that we think that ending your own life is perfectly okay. We are telling them that it is okay if mental illness is something that we don’t take the time to cure. We are telling them that having a problem of the mind is something that one deserves to be ashamed of.
Is all this what we want for our future generations?
Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This strikes at the heart of what we want to stand for. This is about whether we are a hopeful and loving community choosing love over hate and ignorance, or the other way around. The answer we make to this determines how society travels.
What I learned from these incidents are that there are things out there that we are not perfect on. And this photo represents what I have accomplished in school, but it being a mark of life also displays what I and the rest of most of modern-day society has to focus on in the future because we invent it. And mental illness is one of the areas that we hope to clamp down on.