We can not continue to let the stigma around mental illnesses put the health of ourselves others at risk.
We are afraid to discuss mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and more simply because we are afraid. We are afraid because it is out of our comfort zones; after all, it is intimidating to open up about such a personal topic. Except how long will we shy away from such a prevalent issue in our society?
Throughout the last few months, two students in my town committed suicide. After a student of our own passed away, we were handed out yellow ribbons to wear for support. Some students pinned them to their shirts, while others discarded them, throwing them away or mindlessly placing them in their pockets. We hung up posters during our home football and soccer games and painted his name for everyone to see. The teachers and school administrators reached out to the students, asking us a series of questions in hopes that they would understand why he chose to take his life. While this unity is important, it is short lived. Weeks later the unity dissolves and we are back to where we started.
The problem is, even after the funerals, and the grieving, and the goodbyes, the problem is still here. Discussing suicide after it happens is similar to teaching someone how to drive after they get into a car accident: it will never prevent the accident. In our society, there is such a strong stigma around mental illnesses that we are afraid to speak up. No one ever wishes to talk about real problems because it is not in our comfort zones. Discussing mental illnesses is difficult, but if we never discuss the reality of suicide we can never heal. We can not let our memories of these students fade away. They are reminders that we lost two precious lives due to suicide.
Many teenagers today do not open up about their health because they do not wish to be labeled. Teenagers are left in the dark, alone, without knowing where to turn. If we continuously ignore the important of mental health, we risk losing lives due to suicide again. Life is unpredictable.
Together, we all must show support to one another. We must prove that we can fight against this. We can no longer let depression, anxiety, or any mental illness define who we are. We are all so much more. We must solve this problem one step at a time and raise awareness. By doing this, we can truly save lives.