May is Mental Health Awareness Month, at Claremont this means gathering into our homeroom for a brief 15-minute seminar on the topic. Some fast facts are spewed followed by a few quick youtube videos that painted a picture of life with mental illness – one of which was incredible so if you haven’t seen it, go check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc-.
Unsurprising sneers spread throughout the back of the classroom, typical teenage boys uncomfortable with such heavy topic of conversation. The videos concluded and the classroom erupted with chairs swinging out of desks everyone eager to return to the regular scheduled classes. The teacher scrambled to gain control to share final thoughts but students piled out of the classroom, the hallways flooding with people, the subject of mental health floating from their minds as easy as a dandelion on a breezy day.
As someone who has only experienced occasional bouts of anxiety, I can’t imagine being a student in one of those homerooms who has a debilitating mental illness such as depression or bipolar constantly plaguing them. Only receiving 15 minutes of of support for an illness they struggle with 1,440 minutes a day. The topic soon swiftly dismissed by the student body as they are again left to battle alone,the conversation once again muted
If someone is physically sick, whether it is cancer or a cold, no questions are asked, no one is curious to why they are sick, no one poses a question of: “Why can’t you just cure yourself? Why did you let yourself get sick?” No one would dare to tell a cancer patient it is their fault they are sick, nor would that be accurate, because they are not accountable it is simply out of their control. On the contrary we support them with love, care packages, and gofundme pages. However, for some reason the same standard is not maintained for mental illness, we are too afraid to speak out, to lend a hand – silence traps us all, leaving those suffering feeling isolated and alone.
These conversations are difficult, they deal with pain and raw emotion and it is human nature to shy away from things that make us feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or vulnerable. We are facing an epidemic of mental illness, and it is no longer acceptable to pass judgment on those suffering with an illness that is just as unruly as the flu. Whether we are open to hear it or not, mental illness is killing people, depression is closely linked with substance abuse as well as suicide, which is the leading cause of death among teens. We can no longer allow silence to lead to suffering it is our job to speak out for those who aren’t able to themselves.
Ella Lane is a Grade 10 student at Claremont secondary school.