Kayla Littlefield: From Negative to Positive

Kayla Littlefield is a true testament to taking a negative experience and turning it into a positive one.  The third-year student has been spreading the word about mental health, most recently with STUSU's Mental Health Awareness Week that took place earlier this month.

Kayla's crusade is a personal one: earlier this year, she was diagnosed with major depressive and generalized anxiety disorder, as well as obsessive compulsive tendencies.

Kayla says though she only received a diagnosis in August, problems had been persisting for some time.

"I had suffered from a depressive episode in high school, but had ignored it," she says.

Kayla says she came out of the episode and started university seemingly problem-free.  However, last October she began to lose interest in things she liked, and started to suffer from insomnia.  A devestating blow came two months later.

"What really struck me hard though was when last December, one of my close friends committed suicide," says Kayla.  "I suddenly turned numb to all emotion, began having crying jags, didn't sleep, didn't eat, [and] had suicidal thoughts myself."

After realizing she needed help, Kayla went through a number of doctors and social workers trying to figure out what was wrong.  She was finally diagnosed in August, and was immediately determined not to let it define her.

Some time later, she found a student notice in her inbox calling for volunteers at the Student Union's first Mental Health Awareness Week, which kicked off last week.  Kayla says she took a chance and replied, wanting to help as much as she could.

She appeared in a video for STUSU sharing her own story, and was also at events to get students to participate and talk openly about mental health.  She says she hopes that by sharing her own experiences, others will find courage to speak out.

"I do believe that the stigmas around mental health are improving," says Kayla. 

She cites celebrities and other public figures that have come out in support of mental health as a huge improvement, but says it's still an uphill battle.

"It's getting there, becoming more of a conversation topic [and] social issue, but until there is absolute acceptance, I don't think the battle against stigma will ever be done and over with."

Kayla is currently studying psychology, and hopes to have a career in occupational therapy once she graduates.  She says that students dealing with a mental illness should never suffer in silence like she did.

"Get informed, get yourself to a counselor or doctor - whatever you think you need, do it."

Kayla says she's since learned to accept her illness as a part of her, however flawed.  She hopes that others living with mental illness will learn to do the same.

Now that Mental Health Awareness Week has wrapped up, Kayla says she thinks there will be many similar events to come.  As for the response, she says she's thrilled with how many students have come out to talk.

"I've seen lots of Tweets supporting mental health, Instagram confessionals, as well as I've received lots of messages this week telling me that I've really changed their views," she says, "which has been so rewarding!"