Mental health awareness: start the movement

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Information regarding common mental health issues decorates the walls outside of the counseling center in upstairs Haggar. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

We are all tired of the stigma surrounding mental health. To help remedy this, I’m going to share my experience with the frustrations of dealing with mental struggles.

During my sophomore year of high school, I started feeling anxious and depressed, and ever since then I have been on and off antidepressants. For the past five years, this struggle has been the lens through which I’ve perceived the world.

I don’t know if I have mental illness, or if I had an episode of feeling anxious and sad once, during a hard New England winter at a boarding school. I solved it immediately by going on Prozac; after staying on the medication for three years it was too late to go off the prescription because my body became dependent on it.

I’m not sure if it is truly possible to build a dependence on these types of drugs; maybe it’s just that I really do need them. That’s the difficulty of dealing with mental health: our brain is the organ that governs the rest of our body, so when anything goes wrong, it can be confusing and scary. This is why it’s important to know how to maintain a healthy mind and how to realize that we are not alone in our suffering. Mental Health Awareness Week at the University of Dallas is an opportunity to do just that.

Through my struggles, I have found that the best way to combat anxious thinking is through movement, both physically and metaphorically. One of my favorite Instagram users, Mari Andrew, wrote:

“You actually don’t protect yourself or feel better by standing in one place, stiff and rigid. You protect yourself and feel better by remaining soft and open, even a bit vulnerable, and moving as you are able.”

Moving our bodies is a great way to maintain a healthy mind, whether it is achieved through a sport, dance, or using our hands to garden or create. By moving our bodies, not only are we generating endorphins, chemicals that promote happiness, but we are also distracting our mind away from negative thoughts.

Movement can also be interpreted metaphorically and inspire us to  take action. Instead of sitting and worrying about all the homework you have to do, take action by making a list and make it a goal to cross off tasks. Something is always better than nothing.

It is also important to “remain soft and open, even a bit vulnerable…” Although it can feel awkward, talking about your struggles, opening up and being vulnerable, it is the first vital step toward healing and can help you feel less alone. Once you are genuine with someone, they will feel more comfortable to do the same. You would be surprised how many people are struggling with mental illness.

Mental Health Awareness Week is important because while it is erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness, it is also inviting us to take action. With the events such as talks on mental health, playing with puppies, and the social media blackout, we are provided with opportunities to move our bodies and minds in a way that will benefit us.

This week is also making students aware of the resources available to help them, encouraging those struggling to open up by providing a safe place to do so. It is important to take care of ourselves, and it is more than okay to see a counselor, take medication, or use other safe alternatives in order to heal.

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