Mental Health: Perception versus Reality

Myles Miller |Reporter

Sadness is not depression, fear isn’t anxiety, and mood swings do not equate to being bipolar. Nearly one in five adults in America live with a mental illness or disorder (nimh.nih.gov). The subject of mental health can be a sensitive subject for most, possibly due to misconceptions of what it’s really like living with a seemingly invisible illness. At Avon, many students experience some form of a brain-related problem, whether it be in the very wiring of their brain, or an entirely thought-based issue. We asked a few of them to describe how they learned to deal with their mental illness and how others perceive it in order to help educate the student body and hopefully give them a more informed outlook on this important subject.

There are many different types and categories of mental illnesses. One of the more common ones is depression. The symptoms of depression can be extreme and make simple daily tasks difficult. Senior August Nemeth said, “I really have to force myself out of bed every day. I really can’t motivate myself to clean or get dressed some days.” This obviously can be a large burden on a lot of people and affect how they live. Some people who suffer from depression don’t even have a solid support system that helps them deal with their illness. Junior Vesna Feiock said, “My parents say it’s not an excuse as to why I get bad grades or it’s just me being “lazy.” It sucks when I have issues that impact my hygiene, my grades, and my social life, and nobody seems to care.”

Another mental illness that affects a lot of people, especially teenagers, is anxiety. There are a lot of misconceptions regarding anxiety, which can be harmful to those who experience it. Senior Emily Gerety said, “I think people assume mental illness should look a certain way, but it can look any sort of way and it could be more or less than the same person with the same diagnosis. If you are not informed about the illness people could think you look or act weird when your anxiety is really bad.” Coping with this issue is different for almost every single person, but there are a few strategies that are helpful. Gerety also said, “I really struggle with coping, but I use lots of grounding exercises, talking to my brother or my friends, or just taking a nap sometimes helps.” Junior Sophie Schick said, “Medication. I also make tea pretty often which I’ve found helps.”

It isn’t the easiest thing to have to deal with, but most people have found that living with mental illness gets easier with others around. Schick also said, “I wish I didn’t have it, but I am, in a way, thankful that it’s a mental illness (anxiety) that isn’t as looked down upon like others like depression, PTSD, etc. It makes it easier for me to get help and to talk about it with my family.”

Though uncommon, there are cases when a person juggles multiple mental issues at once. This may seem overwhelming for some, and for others, it’s just a part of their life and who they are. Junior Reagan Gamble experiences depression, anxiety, OCD, and bipolar disorder. In regard to misconceptions about her illnesses, she said, “People think OCD is being “clean,” bipolar disorder means you’re “crazy,” and depression means “you’re sad all the time”.” Obviously, these assumptions aren’t the case, but it is a problem for those who experience them to have to deal with untrue statements about their conditions. Gamble said, “A lot of people don’t tend to understand how my mind works. I don’t blame them, it’s confusing and hard to explain. You really have to experience something to understand it entirely. Many people are patient, many could care less, many don’t let it affect our relationship.”

Mental health is a hard subject to deal with, but that doesn’t mean it should be avoided entirely. By talking about it and educating others, we can end the stigma surrounding mental illness and work on helping those who need it.

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