At today’s first Lifesavers Mental Health Awareness workshop, when asked what the difference is between mental health and mental illness, I said, “Well, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness but 5 in 5 Americans have mental health. I guess mental health is something we all have, it’s like physical health. Some people have physical illnesses but others don’t”.
So why is it then that when someone has a mental illness, they’re considered weak and doesn’t deserve help but when someone has cancer, they’re considered strong for getting help?
On a different note:
Attending the Lifesavers Mental Health Awareness workshop has helped me more than I could ever believe was possible. I was very depressed all day – and have been for the past 4 weeks now – and everything was an effort. (Don’t misunderstand, I’ve been struggling with depression for years but these past 4 weeks have been the most intensely depressed I’ve ever felt in a while now – it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t depressed prior to these 4 weeks) I found it difficult to maintain any kind of social interactions outside of speaking with my husband.
After attending the workshop though, I’ve felt slightly better. I don’t know whether it was just because I was given a chance to express myself as a sufferer of mental illnesses or whether I had some social interaction with complete strangers but I actually wasn’t feeling as bad after the one-hour workshop. At the workshop, which was facilitated by a staff of the Office of Health and Wellness as well as a Staff Counselor from the Counseling and Psychological Center (CAPS), we were all encouraged to share our opinions and to discuss the issue of mental health.
During the introductions, I told everyone that I am attending this series of workshops because as a sufferer of mental illnesses myself, I want to be an advocate for people like me and to share my experience. Without being prideful, I felt that my input as a sufferer really made the workshop more “real” – real in the sense that this was not just any classroom lecture but that there was a living breathing person with mental disorders in the same room. Had I been just any other regular attendee, I think I would have liked to hear the input of someone who was actually experiencing mental illnesses. I personally feel that it would enrich my experience at such a workshop.
I was glad to be able to add certain views or share some experiences (like the question of “What not to say to someone with mental illnesses?” where I had responded with, “Yeah, I was told that I shouldn’t look for trouble. That I shouldn’t mess around with the problem. It’ll go away on its own”). I was also glad to be able to do it in a safe space without fear of judgment (that was the first rule of the workshop – no judgments). Maybe one of the things I desperately needed was to be heard and getting to share my voice was tantamount to me feeling better – even if it was just a tad.
The Staff Counselor who facilitated the more technical aspects of the workshop was very soothing to listen to. He is an active listener (as all good therapists are) who is also very encouraging and he made the session one that was not only very engaging but also very positive. The staff of the Office of Health and Wellness did an amazing job at providing clear information as well on her slides and also supported the Counselor well in their delivery.
Overall, it was an excellent hour well-spent. I left feeling a lot more encouraged. Although there were only 6 attendees including myself, I hope that this is a sign that more people will be interested in breaking the stigma of mental illnesses as well as help bring awareness to all. I’m sure there are many students who will benefit from knowing more about mental health and in taking care of their own mental health.