Thursday, April 2, 2015

Week Twelve: The Invisible Illnesses


I've told this story before, but when I was in ninth grade, one of my best friends revealed a dark secret that changed my life more than I knew was possible. She told me that she had tried to kill herself. The reason? Depression.

Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of  sadness. It's a mental illness that affects a person and the people around them. Mental illnesses are something that affect 1 in 5 adults in any given year. And they're something that people fail to understand.

A mental illness isn't something one can see just by looking at a person-- it's deeper than that, it's embedded in someone's mind. Some people think that just because you can't see it, it's not there. They don't understand it, so it gets ignored and it becomes invisible.

I suffer from anxiety. It's not extremely severe for me, but it's still a mental illness. I have a hard time on any given day just getting out of bed and starting my day for fear of failure or embarrassment or of something going terribly wrong. I live with a persistent sinking feeling in my stomach. I'm anxious all the time and all people even do is just to tell me to "get over it" and "calm down."

But, I can't calm down and I can't get over it. Mental illness isn't a problem that can be solved by simply willing it away. That's what we need to make people understand. Mental illness is severe and those with it need support and awareness.

NAMI, the National Alliance of Mental Illness, is an organization that supports those dealing with mental illnesses. According to their statistics, suicide as a result of mental illness is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. If people start treating mental illness with the awareness that it deserves, instead of the "get over it" attitude, that statistics of suicide may change. And if that changes, maybe other ninth graders won't have to hear that their best friend tried to kill themselves, like I heard all those years ago.

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