What the Upper School Wants You to Know About Mental Illness
by Sejal Sangani and Ryan Brady
Trigger warning: This article focuses on subjects that may be triggering to those who have suffered from mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
First of all, we just want to give a huge thank you to everyone who completed our survey. It means a lot to know that we are having a positive impact on the Upper School, and it was very insightful to hear what you guys had to say about mental illness.
Before we dive in, a few statistics based on who submitted to the survey (note: all of these statistics are based off of the 95 students who submitted): About 33% of the Upper School students have been diagnosed with a mental illness, while 95% know someone who is struggling with one (or more). 88% of people have witnessed a joke about mental illness that made them uncomfortable. Of the previously mentioned 33%, 88% felt that their mental illness had been discounted “sometimes” or even more frequently. This is really important; a lot of people spoke out about this in the survey.
Everyone’s responses were insightful and educational, but we can’t use them all. If yours isn’t in this list, we still love you and appreciate your ideas! Note: submissions have been edited for length and clarity.
What Upper Schoolers Want You to Know:
“IT IS NOT A CHOICE!!!!!”
“It’s not easy to just “cheer up” or “snap out of it”. THIS IS A REAL PROBLEM!!!!!!”
“dO NOt caLl PeOplE CRazY- when you say someone is acting crazy, psychotic, retarded, or anything relating, it creates a stigma around mental illness.”
“We are not lying and using it as an excuse to get out of class, sports etc. It is very real; one simple pill will not magically ‘fix’ us.”
“it really hurts when people make jokes that discount mental illness, it just shows that you either don’t know or don’t care about what people are struggling with.”
“PTSD happens even when not in a “war zone.””
“You can’t just tell me to stop worrying about something. If I could, I would.”
“I just want people to understand that even though anxiety isn’t always visible, it still is there.”
“Social anxiety is most definitely a real thing. “
“Social anxiety isn’t just being shy, as anxiety isn’t just being nervous, depressed isn’t just being sad, bipolar isn’t having a mood swing. You aren’t (socially) anxious/depressed/bipolar just because you got nervous or sad or had a mood swing that one time.”
“Comments like “that’s so OCD” (when you are talking about perfectionism or a simple “quirk” of a personality) can be really hurtful to understanding what it is like to actually have a compulsion you cannot control.”
“It is your right to disclose your illness and NO ONE else’s.”
“Please please PLEASE stop making jokes like, “I’m gonna kill myself,” or “stop being so OCD,” because jokes are what they ARE. Mental illness is not a joke. It’s not something to be laughed at. It’s not something to make fun of. Please just stop. It got old like 10,000 years ago. If you wanna talk about it please go ahead – but do it seriously. Even if you think that it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, IT DOES. IT ALWAYS DOES. SERIOUSLY I AM 10000% SICK OF IT STOP ALREADY THANKS IN ADVANCE. What do you think people are gonna think – “OMG HAHAHA so funny they made a joke about someone killing themselves!! I wish I could be as funny as them and completely discount an entire group of people’s struggles!!!!” Yeah, no one thinks like that. Chances are, they think you have zero respect for anyone and therefore they have zero respect for you.”
“Please stop using the word “trigger” lightly. I’m not triggered because there’s no more cereal at breakfast, but when I am, it’s real and it’s scary. Stop using it as a joke. I know it’s a meme, but it’s not a good one.”
Messages to People with Mental Illness:
“I admire your strength”
“You can do it and always remember that this community of great people is here to support you and we are eager to help in anyway we can, so don’t be afraid to ask or to reach out :)”
“People who do not have mental illnesses should not be quick to judge others who do. Their mental illness does not define them.”
We hope you guys liked the personal connection with Upper School and mental illness. As always, feel free to email us with ideas or comments at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness or suicidal ideation and needs help, call one of hotlines below or reach out to a trusted adult such as your mentor, Ms. Biggar, Ms. Lurie, etc.
216-623-6888: ADAMHS suicide crisis hotline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Suicide prevention telephone hotline funded by the U.S. government. Provides free, 24-hour assistance. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
National Hopeline Network – Toll-free telephone number offering 24-hour suicide crisis support. 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433). (National Hopeline Network)
The Trevor Project – Crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Includes a 24/7 hotline: 1-866-488-7386.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – Free, confidential 24/7 helpline information service for substance abuse and mental health treatment referral. 1-800-662-HELP (4357). (SAHMSA)