Mental illness affects about 20 per cent of Canadians at some point in their lifetime. Even though the dialogue about mental health has certainly gotten better, there is still a lot of work to be done in regards to the stigma surrounding it.
27 per cent of Canadians surveyed admitted to being fearful of people who suffer from severe mental illness, according to the Canadian Medical Association. 58 per cent also admitted that they would rather not have to deal with anyone with any sort of mental illness if at all possible.
With statistics like these, it is no wonder that people are still reluctant to admit to having any sort of mental disorder. As a result, many of these people suffer from their mental disorders in silence.
This likely leads to the fact that one in five people suffering from mental illness don’t actually get the help they need, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. This is very unfortunate as the CMHA also says that 80 per cent of people that get help for their mental illness are able to get back to regular activities in their lives.
Why am I spewing all of these statistics at you? Because students are the most likely group to deal with mental illnesses in silence.
Statistics Canada says that teenagers and young adults ages 15-24 experience the highest frequency of mental health disorders in Canada and most of them go undiagnosed. One in four young adults ages 18-24 suffer from mental illness. This means of the 21,000 students studying on the U of S campus, over 5,000 of us are statistically likely to be dealing with some sort of mental disorder.
I am one of those people. I have been diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder this past year, but my doctor told me that I have probably been dealing with this since I was 16 years old. Only after half a decade of suffering in silence and thinking that I could push through all of this have I been able get the professional help I’ve always needed.
There are days where I physically cannot get out of bed. My joints hurt, my body aches, my mind doesn’t work and there is no willpower for me to do anything. My mind tells me that there is no point in leaving my bed because I am not smart enough or talented enough to achieve anything.
Then the anxiety kicks in. What if I go outside and a car runs over me? Or I make it to my class but screw up my assignment? Weeks worth of hard work down the drain. Or what if I accidentally got one question wrong on my French exam? There goes my grade for the semester.
These sound like minor worries to most people — things that type A people worry about and are not likely to happen — but to my brain these are as likely to occur as the earth going around the sun. These examples may as well be a sure thing if I get out of bed — and I’m not even that type A personality!
I grew up within the context of a very traditional South Asian family. To them, there was no such thing as mental illness. If you couldn’t get out of bed, that was laziness. If you were worried about not succeeding on that exam, you didn’t study hard enough. Medication for depression was a definite no-no, as you could “get addicted” and “not be normal without them.”
I essentially had to choose between taking care of my mental health and my family — and I am not the first, nor the last person to do so. I am writing this article not because I feel like my story is unique, or even important in the grand scheme of things, but because I feel as if discussing personal experiences in regards to mental illness is a vital thing to do.
People should no longer have to deal with their mental illnesses in silence, feel ashamed or think that they are broken.
Because 24 per cent of youth die as a result of suicide, we should all try to understand the severity of mental illnesses. This number is a sad statistic that needs to be changed, and being empathetic towards people that deal with mental illnesses is a strong first step toward changing it.
Our campus has a very capable counseling center located on the third floor of Place Riel, people that were trained to help deal with these situations. In addition, there are many resources on the CMHA website helping with understanding, coping and helping others deal with mental illness. Don’t be afraid to start a discussion or seek help if you feel you need it.