California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    Battling Stigma With Good Mental Health

    There is a stigma in modern society, and that is one against mental health. When I learned about mental health and mental illness, it was in my own struggles with mental illness over the years.

    I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) when I was 14 years old, and I’ve been taking various medications to keep all of my illnesses in check since then.

    It hasn’t been an easy road to get to where I am after seven years, but I think it has taught me a lot about myself and the way these illnesses have affected me.

    When I was first diagnosed, I kept the fact that I had depression, anxiety and OCD to myself for fear of being ostracized from my peers because they’d think I was crazy, or mentally unhinged.

    It has really only been recently that I’ve come to be more comfortable talking about my struggles to people aside from my close friends, family and therapist. I think that acknowledging the fact that I have those illnesses, and have still been able to go through college and succeed, is important to engage in.

    I first believed that by talking about my struggles it was a sign of admitting to some sort of weaknesss. But I learned it’s a way of acceptance.

    The American Psychological Association stated on their webpage entitled Overcoming Depression, “Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s not something you can just ‘snap out of.’ It’s an illness that requires professional treatment.”

    Reading that, it made me realize that having a mental illness wasn’t some fault of my own, it was something I was born with, and something I couldn’t control—until I started taking medication, which actually helped me feel better.

    As the APA also said, “Antidepressant medications can be helpful for reducing depression symptoms in some people, especially in people with severe depression.”

    In this case, my medications worked for me, but they don’t always work for everyone, which is why the website also went on to say that psychotherapy can also be effective, whether or not it’s in combination with medications.

    In my own case, therapy has proven to be incredibly helpful in understanding how I was thinking and feeling, but at first, I didn’t enjoy going to my therapy sessions every week. I felt like I was being forced to go when I believed that I was mentally okay.

    In the seven years since I’ve been in therapy, I’ve come to love going and talking with my therapist, because I’ve gained crucial insights into how I think about life and it has given me a place where I’m comfortable talking openly about what’s going on in my head.

    But I didn’t tell anyone that I was in therapy, at least at first, because I thought they’d all think that I was crazy, and not someone who could be a friend.

    Kerri Lauchner, the director of Health Services, spoke about how therapy has been proven to help people with mental illnesses, and how people aren’t weak for having one.

    “I believe therapy can provide a client with tools to help them in the long run,” Lauchner said in an email interview. “Some people would like to just ‘pop a pill’ to fix their problems and while medications for mental illnesses can help, I strongly believe therapy needs to occur with mental illness for best treatment.”

    I agree with Kerri, as I couldn’t have achieved the sense of peace that I’ve found if I hadn’t been taking medications and talking with my therapist.

    I think only one of the two methods would not have helped me as much as the both of them have.

    Jamie Bedics, associate professor & director with a master of science in clinical psychology in the graduate school of psychology, wishes people would understand that mental health and mental illness is not a dichotomous idea.

    “There’s not mental health and mental illness,” Faucher said. “If you think about it on a continuum, dimensionally we’re all on the same dimension and we can struggle in different ways at different points in our lives, and we all have different average levels of where we’re at.”

    Since I’ve come to terms with my mental disorders, I’ve felt more calm and confident with talking about them. Being in therapy and being on medications isn’t something to be ashamed of.

    It’s something to be proud of since it shows I’ve taken steps to better myself and learn to be happy with the person I’ve become.

    Henry Studebaker
    Staff Writer