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My Internship with Hope for the Day: It’s Okay not to be Okay

College is said to be the best four years of your life, and I truly believe it is. But college can also be the most challenging four years of your life.

Last semester was definitely one that challenged me and tested my abilities to cope with difficult circumstances. My living situation was falling apart. My anatomy class proved too much to handle. But in a way, that tough semester was a blessing in disguise, because it brought to my attention an aspect of health that I hadn’t really thought about pursuing after college.

I started searching for mental health organizations to intern for last summer in my hometown of Chicago and came across Hope for the Day, a nonprofit organization that focuses on suicide prevention and mental health education through outreach, education and prevention.

As an intern, I was able to write for the association’s blog, and make lesson plans for schools in need of suicide prevention activities and strategies. What followed was a revealing experience in which I was not only introduced to just how many college kids struggle with mental health, but also realized that most of us don’t really understand how to handle mental health situations the way we think we do.

Director of Programs and Operations Carl Evans likes to explain mental health awareness as a metaphor. When someone breaks a bone, most of us know how to handle the situation. We would call 911, get them into a cast and start the healing process. Evans feels mental health awareness should be the same. Everyone should know what to do if someone they love needs help.

I know that many of my friends didn’t know how to help me at my lowest points. Some of them gave me the nervous laugh, while others just sat there with sad expressions on their faces. Although I appreciated all their help, it often left me feeling the exact same way I felt before. Interning with Hope for the Day allows people to explore their options when it comes to helping others and educating themselves on mental health and its different forms.

As a Caucasian woman, I didn’t think I was affected by stigmas. To me, stigmas were often associated with an ethnic group or a race. But through this internship, I learned that anyone can be stigmatized. Each and every one of us is afraid to do something because of a certain stereotype, or a fear of being judged.

With that knowledge and with my internship, I have now learned to be kinder to people. I hold the door a second longer. I smile at strangers. I talk to someone who is sitting alone in class, because you never know if for that one person, a random act of kindness like that can mean everything.

 

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