The Treatment Specialist 2019 Follow Up Scholarship Essay Winner
I am a junior at Baylor University, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Business Administration. On campus, I am involved in my sorority, service organizations, an honors organization and I work on campus as a Baylor Experience and Admissions Representative in the Visitor’s Center. I am originally from Lubbock, Texas where my parents along with most of my family still lives. I have 2 sisters, 2 step-sisters, 2 step-brothers and a brother-in-law. My plans for the future are to graduate from Baylor in May 2020 and attend a Chiropractic college to attain my Doctor’s of Chiropractic.
Mental illness is life-changing. It is life-altering. It is life-threatening. It is real, and it is prevalent. Despite all this, mental illness is a topic that people, especially younger people, are uneducated on and tend to avoid, therefore leaving it very misunderstood. Mental illnesses can be just as detrimental to a person’s health as physical illnesses and injuries can. In fact, suicide is all too often the result of an untreated or overwhelming mental illness. There has been a long running stigma about mental illness, about how only “crazy people” experience feelings labeled as obsessive compulsive disorder or depression, or how all people with mental illnesses are “psycho.”
This is something that needs to be changed, and one of the biggest battles with mental health awareness and suicide awareness will be to changing this stigma associated with them. I believe that people can have a completely different (and more accurate) view on mental illness simply by being educated on exactly what it is, how it affects an individual and how to handle it within your own life or within the life of others.
I have a personal story that deals with mental illness, and while it is not as extreme as others have experienced, it has played a huge role in my passion for mental health awareness and suicide prevention awareness. When I was younger, my parents went through a divorce and it sent my eight-year old mind into an emotional downward spiral. From there on I struggled off and on with mild anxiety and depression, although I learned to mask it well. I would bottle up all my emotions, fearful of expressing them to my parents because I didn’t want to be another source of problems in their life. I continued to grow up, making it a habit to hide my dark emotions, allowing them to fester. I started to notice how my hidden anxiety and depression were taking a toll on my mind and my health in my high school years; I would be exhausted no matter how much sleep I got, I was starting to get sick more often because my immune system was tired of constantly battling, and my closest friends started distancing themselves from me because I wouldn’t be open and vulnerable with them. Also in the midst of this, I had a boyfriend that began talk about how he wasn’t sure he wanted to live anymore because he was “such a failure” and “had no purpose” anymore. These were feelings I had also felt previously, so I tried to relate with him and help him work through those emotions, but I had never seriously considered self harm or suicide, so I was very unsure of how to handle those conversations.
After he had expressed these thoughts and emotions to me a few times, I began to be deeply worried and once again experienced a great amount of anxiety in myself that I tried to hide, so I decided I needed to tell his mom about these things that he had been confiding in me about, even though he had explicitly told me to never tell anyone. After I called her that night, she immediately went to his room and found him preparing to take his life. I remember it felt like a pretty traumatic experience at the time, the aftermath of emotions from him, myself and his family. Everyone was distraught and frustration and didn’t know the answers of what to do, so he began to attend counseling sessions with a therapist. These sessions allowed him to begin to make slow yet positive progress, however, we did not stay together even though I was often still a source he would still confide in whenever he began to have negative thoughts on me. In regards to my own emotional state, the combination of my past and this experience had worn me nearly thin, so I broke down and begin to seek help in a couple close friends and my youth pastor’s wife in church. I would finally release all my feelings, emotions and thoughts I had bottled inside for so many years and began my own journey towards emotional and spiritual healing.
In lieu of my own experience, I have come to find people that are dear to me that have battled with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and more. My heart aches at the thought of people experiencing these thoughts and emotions and feeling alone and hopeless, and this has led me to do something about it. I attend Baylor University, and there are leadership opportunities students can apply for called “Peer Leaders” that focus in various areas of student and campus life. I applied and was accepted to the Mental Health section of the Peer Leading class, where we will discuss mental health and suicide awareness and create an initiative, directed towards college students, which will serve to educate students of how to get help and how to help others around them struggling with anxiety, depression and/or suicidal thoughts. Our main presentation will be in Chapel, a class required for all freshman on campus and open to all other ages of students. We will also have other various campus-wide events throughout the semester for all students. The other students in the class and myself will be working with the on-campus counseling center and other professionals on this project.
I am looking forward to the possibilities we will have to promoted suicide awareness across campus and to simply educate the student body so people can start to feel educated and confident when it comes to handling difficult situations involving mental illness and suicide.