Dear Next President,
Imagine, for a moment, what it would feel like to be the last human being on the entire planet; no one and nothing to see for miles. Now, to add to this, imagine your muscles will not allow you to move, you are forced to lay in a barren desolate desert with no one to help you. This, dear president, is what it feels like when you have a severe panic disorder as well as depression and, to top it off, the pressure of school on your back. But all those people out there who don’t know what depression and anxiety disorders feel like think that they are fake diseases that you make up when you want attention. People think that when you say you have anxiety it just means that you’re nervous or that when you say you’re depressed you’re just sad. This exact reason is why I propose that we help this country look at mental illnesses differently because people can’t keep living like this, like the last human on earth.
I bring up this sad subject of anxiety and depression because I have it myself and I know what it’s like for people to think I’m faking it or just asking for attention when I tell them that I have these two mental illnesses. The fact is, I don’t like telling people I have these issues in the first place, but when I do get the courage to tell them and they just bash me down, it makes me feel a whole lot worse. It makes me feel worse because they do not know what it feels like to live with severe anxiety and depression and they don’t know all the struggles that come with them. They don’t know what it feels like to lay in bed for four hours because you’re so sad, only thinking of everything bad, and having no motivation to barely even move. They don’t know what it feels like to cancel Friday night plans because you had an anxiety attack just now. They don’t know what it feels like to worry about every single little tiny detail of the day and how that single thing could ruin everything. They don’t know what it’s like so they should have no say in whether it’s real or not, because let me tell you: it’s very real.
These people must also be unaware that 1 in 5 teens have, or will have, a mental illness. This information is coming from the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses which also tells that 50% of students age 14 drop out of school and I can only assume that this is because they have to constantly struggle with their mental health as well as others putting them down for it. The National Alliance on Mental Illnesses again tells us that 90% of all suicides were caused because that person had a mental illness. Both of these percentages should be reason enough that anxiety and depression is real and that we need to help this country see that.
The country, though, needs to realize, too, that anxiety and depression aren’t the only mental illnesses out there. When I hear people say they support mental illnesses and they will always be there for those who have them, I ask, “What about people who have schizophrenia or insomnia or substance abuse? What about those who are bipolar or have eating disorders?” These questions that I ask should be answered with a firm, “yes”, but are instead answered with a wary, “uhm…?” Most Americans today don’t even know what schizophrenia even is! Sure there are arguments out there that lots of people do recognize mental illnesses or that no one thinks that these illnesses are fake and yes I acknowledge that many people do, but the majority of the American public does not. Michelle Obama even said, “At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.” Here, the first lady herself states that this country is unaware of the needs of mental health reform and how the country views mental illnesses. I believe that there are more arguments out there going against my cause, but I say you can’t argue unless you have personally lived through someone telling you that your mental illnesses isn’t a serious issue.
I also would like to acknowledge that, yes, we do learn about mental health in our health classes in school, but we go over all of them in only one day. One day isn’t even enough to know the basics about depression. I’ve had depression for years now and I still only know a little about it and you expect teenagers to learn everything about it in forty minutes? Our health classes are a joke and they teach us nothing about what really matters. Sure, staying fit and active is good, but I’d say that being happy with yourself is much more important than having muscles. I want our health classes to elaborate on the importance of mental health. I want our health classes to tell us that it’s okay if you have a mental illness and that it’s okay to seek help. I want our health classes to teach kids that there is nothing wrong with you if you have a mental illness. I want teenagers today to feel comfortable in their own mind and body.
“How can I go forward when I don’t know which way I’m facing?” John Lennon perfectly explains what it’s like to be told to get over yourself and get past your mental issues. Thousands of Americans today just pretend that depression isn’t a real illness, but we need to help our country to get past this biased way of thinking and open their eyes to the real world. We need to help our brothers and sisters see what thousands of others are having to suffer through. We have to help our country grow stronger together and this could all happen if we just acknowledge mental illnesses and spend more time teaching the public about the horrors of mental illnesses. By enhancing our health classes in schools to teach more about mental health and by publicly acknowledging mental illnesses, I feel as though our country would grow to be a more accepting and loving community.
West Saint Paul, MN