Picture yourself packing up your things at the end of a 9 am class. Your professor’s voice slowly fading into the background, drowned out by zippers and papers crumbling, students talking. Your professor finally yells out, “Have a good day everyone, see you on Thursday!” Sometimes it feels like you can’t get out of the classroom fast enough. Now picture yourself walking through campus, checking your watch, noticing you have a little over 10 minutes to make it to your next class. You follow in crowds of other students heading to class. Life seems mundane. You pull open the heavy doors of Stevens Hall and walk up three flights of stairs. You start sweating. You find your classroom, take your seat. Your new professor welcomes you. Time doesn’t seem to be moving very fast. By the time it took you to get here, another person in the United States just committed suicide.
On average, one person in this country dies by suicide every 16.2 minutes. That’s nearly 30,000 Americans per year, with 1,100 of them being college students. Imagine the rooms, buildings, and cities we could fill with the memories and stories of all those who lost their battle with mental illness. If you don’t feel suffocated by compassion at this point, I urge you to look closer at the people in your life and how painful would it be to lose them by their own hand. The people affected by suicide are not just those that have passed. There are millions of people in this world that ache from the loss of a loved one. Don’t you wish you could do more, make a change, make a difference? DO you want to save someone from that heartache? Then, let’s do just that.
Active Minds is a national organization that has campus chapters at nearly 500 colleges throughout the country. The University of Maine is lucky enough to have had a chapter for almost five years now. Active Minds is on a mission to change the conversation about mental health at colleges throughout the country in order to offer support and advocacy to those struggling with mental health issues, as well as serve as a resource and educational tool to students on campus. Believe it or not, even if you do not suffer from a mental illness, EVERYONE has mental health just like everyone has physical health. Which means that everyone should be well versed on their mental health education in order to make college campuses safer and more open environments. Imagine a world where talking about going to see a counselor for depression bears no more stigma than going to see a physician for a broken ankle.
Unfortunately, the stigma that surrounds mental health stifles and strangles our voices. We are intimidated. We are scared. We stuff it down. We are crushed by our own hurt instead of seeking help. And for so many, there is no climbing back from the mental health mountain they fell down. So, suicide seems like the only answer.
It is a heavy weight to hold, trying to solve the stigma problem in this country and in the entire world. Sometimes it feels as if the problem is too big to make any headway at all. But there is beauty in the fact that our work has just begun. Anything and everything we do now to recognize the stigma monster can only help those struggling with their mental health, those who love someone struggling, or even those blind to the problem in the first place. So it may seem small, but Active Minds National has launched a campaign called “The World Needs You Here”. Thousands of bracelets were shipped and are being sold to campus chapters all across the United States that have those five simple words engraved on them.
I wear my bracelet every day with so much pride that it makes my heart swell. I am proud for myself, that I am here amidst my own personal struggles. I am proud for my family, that we have always been fortunate enough to have an open mental health dialogue in the house. I am proud for all the people fighting the battle against mental illness and hope that they find comfort and encouragement through this bracelet. I am proud for all the people that needed a reminder of the necessity of life and how much the world benefits from them being here. I am proud for all the souls lost to suicide, that the tragedy of their death could be used as a catalyst towards real, effective mental health change. And I am proud to stand alongside of thousands of other students throughout this country that wear the same bracelet, refusing to let one more life be taken without doing something, anything, about it.
If you would like to join me in the fight against suicide by purchasing a “The World Needs You Here” bracelet for $4 from Active Minds UMaine, please stop by our weekly tables on the Mall Mondays and Wednesdays from 11-1, get in touch with our Facebook page (UMaine Active Minds) or email me directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org
RAISE AWARENESS FOR MENTAL HEALTH
AND SUICIDE PREVENTION
Images courtesy of Katelyn McPherson and Taylor Leigh O’Neil Pierce