Tell it how it is

In the article published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nine ways are described in order to fight stigmas surrounding mental health. The first, which I believe to be the most crucial, is to “talk openly about mental health.” This simple rule plays a large role in mine and Olivia’s strategy to mitigate mental health stigma; moreover, as I described in my last blog post, it is our goal to utilize the art of story-telling to diminish stigma.

The second article brings up a terrible misconception, something that, to be honest, I believed for a long time: people with mental illness are weak– suck it up. It’s easy to look from the exterior and make assumptions about another’s mental state. I know in high school there were times where I spoke to kids when it was visible that something was affecting them mentally. Many of them were not sleeping, binge eating or not eating at all, and not conversating with their peers as usual. Were they depressed?

I mean we had a lot of homework and all, and I was able to get it done and deal with the stress, so they should be able to too. Right?

But, it’s not that easy because there could have been so many other things in their life contributing to their physical appearance and mental state. How would I know?

I have to go back to storytelling. If we are able to find students who have experienced mental illness to share their story, the things going on in their life, the way they felt, who they leaned on etc. people will be able to get a glimpse into what it is like to live with mental illness. This will add a personal approach to the topic. Many people would know the person talking; moreover, maybe you see a friend from home speak, or a kid you sit next to in Biology and you will think to yourself “this could happen to anyone” or “Wow he/she seemed so normal I’m shocked.”

Storytelling is powerful, and I believe it is powerful enough to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

STATE of Mind

This group plans to observe, investigate, and improve the atmosphere surrounding mental health on campus. We plan to do this by conducting interviews, researching, and hearing stories from people who have experienced some sort of mental illness. It is our goal to find and correct the flaws associated with CAPS– Penn State’s mental healthcare service. I, along with Olivia Daffan, will work to find ways to establish an accepting and stigma-free environment here at Penn State.

I plan to present the idea of establishing a story-telling event in which students, faculty, and staff would have the opportunity of telling the story of their experiences with mental illness. Story-telling has an extremely impactful effect not only on the audience but also the speaker. I think this event is very plausible, considering that a few of my peers and I are in the works of establishing a story-telling club. In addition, not only would this event make lasting effects on those who attend but it will also bring much-needed attention to this issue.

Kiki plans to present the idea of holding a mandatory seminar for first-year students, which discusses mental health to a greater extent. This would provide students with a better understanding of the effects of certain mental disorders, help them understand how to balance a college workload, and give them tools to handle and deal with stress. While many first years are required to enroll in a seminar, it does not put much focus on mental health and Schreyer Scholars are not required to enroll in such seminars. That is not a joke…

The students with arguably the largest workload are not required to attend a seminar which would aid them in their transition to college.

As of right now, Kiki and I are researching certain methods that other colleges and communities have used to create a more accepting environment and stigma-free atmosphere.

This I Believe

Hen, come on the floor is shaking, and your sister is trying to sleep!” “One more mile, Mom!”

Off the treadmill, I’d go and immediately take off my shirt. Turning sideways, I’d look at my progress and feel around for those dreaded love handles. I GOT THIS!

You would think after a long workout I’d go downstairs and eat a delicious homemade meal (I mean my mom is 100% Italian and an amazing cook), but no. I’d reach into the freezer and grab one of the hundreds of little boxes titled “Weight Watchers,” and with a sigh, I’d take off the plastic.

That’s a dinner?! Jeez, this looks like a good afternoon snack!

What in the world was this twelve-year-old doing? Now, was his time to eat those juicy burgers, greasy fries, and gooey cookies. But, he decided it was time to stop.

He no longer wanted to wear a swim shirt on the beach. No longer wanted to tuck in his stomach to fit into his school uniform. But most importantly, this was middle-school Henry, and he wanted to be a player!

He held himself well, walking down the hallways with his classic grin and would never hesitate to make a quick comment at one of the pretty girls in his class.

“Yo Alyssa, how you doing?”

But, he wanted to fit the bill.

Day by day, run by run, and sit-up by sit-up little hen watched the numbers on the bathroom scale drop. It was no cake walk battling through grandma yelling, “Hen, stop starving yourself!” and friends chuckling “Hahaha what are you on a diet, loser?”

But at the end of the day, I thought, “Fuck it. I got this.” It’s something I put my mind to, something that I wanted for myself. I wanted to be slim. I wanted to fit the image of the cocky little kid which I was.

Later that year, I walked around the spring carnival with my girlfriend. We laughed and smiled as we played games and rode all of the rides. And when we were on the teacups, and I held her hand under the seat, I looked at our embrace and repeated the words in my head:

I got this!