Awareness programs are vital to end the stigma and educate people about mental illness

By Nicole Thompson, Student, Pace University

Anxiety and depression crept into my life when I was about 11 years old. At that age, I didn’t know what mental illness was but I knew the dull, empty feeling I had inside was not right. By my school, my softball team, my friends and my family, I was known as the happy girl who was always making a joke, laughing or smiling. I couldn’t imagine telling anyone about the way I felt inside, they wouldn’t take me seriously and I didn’t want to ruin the positive image everyone had of me. I was confused, fearful and alone in my fight.

After a couple years, I tried opening up to those close to me but I was only met with responses of “you just want attention” or “are you even trying to be happy?”. After a couple more years, I realized I had an illness and I needed help, I couldn’t win this fight on my own. I finally made a plan, found a good therapist and medications that worked for me and started on my road to recovery. But why did it take 4 years for me to get the help and support I needed?

Because mental health is not talked about enough. Because there is a stigma. Because those surrounding me were not educated, and neither was I.

I would not have struggled alone if mental health awareness and suicide prevention programs were present in my community, if those around me were educated about the reality of mental illness or if I was aware of my resources. Awareness programs are vital in order to end the stigma and educate people about mental illness.

Mental illness does not discriminate and it can happen to anybody.

There is no way of knowing what someone is going through, whether it is your loved one or the stranger sitting next to you. Be aware. Speak up. Reach out. Help someone.

If you need support now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or, text “START” to 741-741 to get help 24/7 from the Crisis Text Line.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Jordan Porco Foundation’s resources page.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal, and not those of the Jordan Porco Foundation. The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as mental health advice from the individual author or the Jordan Porco Foundation. You should consult a mental health professional for advice regarding your individual situation.