Giving My Mind a Voice: How Communities Have Shaped My View of Mental Health

I’ve always been somewhat shy. Well, actually, I don’t know. Because while I’ve always been shy, I’ve always been what I thought to be quite open and vocal to those who know me well. Nonetheless, communication has always been difficult for me. I never seem to know what’s enough or “appropriate.” However, I’ve learned some of the scenarios in which speaking your mind is important.

 Let me begin by saying that this first scenario is one that I’m not sure I can attribute to my being an introvert, although I’m sure it plays a role. I generally don’t do well with letting others know when I’m upset. I usually just keep to myself. I think this is something many of us do. Have you ever been upset, and instead of ranting to a friend, or surrounding yourself with people you care about you, you decided to keep to yourself? It’s something I’ve always done, and it’s something I don’t recommend doing. It’s a dangerous practice to let your emotions build up within yourself. It’s not that I believe my opinions don’t matter. I simply tend to focus on my own thoughts and feelings, instead of external stimulation. It’s something that translates into how I communicate with others, especially when I’m upset or feeling particularly vulnerable emotionally. One thing I’ve learned socially in college is that nothing comforts you more than your community, especially if it’s a strong one. Denison is a relatively small school. Some may even call it tiny. But the people on campus bond together, despite their regular differences. Every campus body is most definitely unique, but I hope each one acts as a source of community. As someone who keeps their emotions to themselves, I’m grateful to be in a community that helps me come out of my shell.

This next scenario is one I attribute to my upbringing. In traditional Indian culture, mental health is not discussed -- it doesn’t seem to exist. When I told my family I was a psychology major, they almost took it as a joke. It upset me, and it sometimes still does. However, I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily their fault. Being a first generation student in America has taught me to understand cultural barriers such as these. Part of me was raised to never voice my thoughts, in case they were sometimes offensive or rude. Life goes on, and sometimes our thoughts and feelings are meaningless in the long run. This ideology is prevalent in many cultures, and it’s something my generation is working to change. Sometimes those who are quiet or more shy than others struggle to voice their thoughts -- not only because of their nature, but also because of culture. Diverse communities, like college campuses, allow students of different backgrounds to come together. And while some may be shy and others may be nothing but, a community is created in which both types of people can learn from each other. This is particularly helpful for students like me – those who are introverted by nature and culture.

As social beings, we will never fully understand how each other thinks and feels. We can only hope to create communities that allow us a firmer grasp on mental health. We learn more about ourselves while contributing to what other may learn about themselves, and that’s a beautiful thing.