Let’s Talk About It is an ongoing series that will highlight high school students from all over the United States in hopes to encourage others to speak openly about mental health and help connect and support one another.
We asked high school students from California, specifically in the San Diego area, to share their mental wellness journey. The stories have been reviewed by a professional psychologist and staff attorney. These are one of many voices.
If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.
Disclaimer: The last names of students were not included in order to protect their identity. This story may trigger some audiences.
The Road Taken
“I recently lost a friend to suicide and have had many others who tried. It’s heartbreaking to know these events are the ‘usual’ ideas in our generation. Many people have gone through troubled pains, and sometimes it’s not even their fault. Many people may be part of an unhappy or even abusive family. In quarantine, those people have no way to escape and can’t even just for a school day now.” — Julia A (freshman)
“I felt like I entirely lost myself to my depression, and I barely knew who I was or what I loved. It was consuming me to the point where I felt like an empty vessel, whereas my only purpose was to just eat, drink, sleep and repeat. I lost many friendships and my relationship with myself. I felt like I lost my name and my voice. In the end, I found myself comforted through music like BTS. This boy-band showed me that there is no shame in finding help for mental health. I now find pride in myself and all my flaws. I now have the dream to grow and become a person I can truly love, and look in the mirror and accept who I see.” — Nadia G (sophomore)
“I received my first diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder at nine years old. I was fine on my own until I was fifteen years old. I started seeing a therapist weekly and gaining an additional diagnosis of panic disorder and major depressive disorder. I have a very supportive therapist and psychiatrist and I’m thankfully doing the best I’ve ever been. I am on the correct medication and can use what I’ve learned throughout my journey to help me with any day-to-day problems. I realized that it wasn’t a situational problem, I had been dealing with this my whole life.” — Piper S (junior)
“I struggled to feel secure that I was loved by my friends. I would constantly worry that my friends were going to stop liking me and leave me, and this led to me overthinking every little thing that they would say. As a release of my sadness, I became extremely irritable with my parents because I knew that they wouldn’t leave me, and would get in arguments with my mom constantly. By the end of my sophomore year, I knew that something had to change because I had a low mood constantly and no longer enjoyed doing anything. I decided to take a step back from many of my toxic friends and instead began to focus on the people that made me truly happy. I started talking to my current boyfriend, and although I still sometimes get anxious that he will leave me too, he is teaching me that I am capable of being loved. Since then, I have realized my worth and realized that I am loved and deserve to be alive. My life has turned around dramatically, and I now know that it’s okay to get help.” — Sydney B (junior)
“My mental illness for sure affected my relationship with other people and my academic life. I had a lot of unstable relationships, which then followed by poor academic performance in certain classes. I decided to start therapy as early as the age of 13. It has significantly changed my life and saved it too. I can now proudly say that I am in a much better place and I am doing a lot better. I like spreading awareness on mental health and I made an Instagram account @mybipolarrecovery. I have learned during this whole experience that I am not in control of the world and what happens to me. I am in control of my actions and decisions.” — Nika J (senior)
If others could know…
“Mental health comes in all forms. For example, depression is not always associated with sadness; it can be anger or irritation. I also wish they knew that it’s not a bad thing to get help and you’re not weird, you’re normal. Everyone struggles.” — Gia E (freshman)
“I wish people knew that although someone on the outside may appear completely happy, that’s not always the case on the inside and that it’s important to treat others, especially the people you love, with kindness and sensitivity so that they know that they are loved.” — Sydney B (junior)
“I’ve struggled with self-harm, substance abuse and getting electroshock therapy for PTSD three times a week. I’m not my mental illness; I am so much more than any diagnosis you can paste onto me. I am strong, beautiful and powerful. I’m not going to fall into a hole of self-sabotage when I know I have the resources to get help and that I deserve to have an amazing life.” — Drew W (junior)
“Having a mental illness and reaching out for help is NOT a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. It’s hard to deal with one and it should not be stigmatized by any means.” — Nika J (senior)
“We need to be accepting of what other people are going through. Open communication with our teachers about what is going on can not only help ourselves but also help them understand.” — Jack M (freshman)
“At first, I did deal with some stigma that came along with my illness from my family, but over time I educated them with my own experiences and literature works. I was fortunate enough that both my friends and family offered lots of help. I felt like a burden, but their support and comfort made me feel otherwise.” — Nadia G (sophomore)
“We need to change our labels and phrases like ‘you’re so OCD’ and ‘I’m so depressed.’ They shouldn’t be part of casual conversation. It lessens the seriousness of these debilitating illnesses.” — Piper S (junior)
“I wish mental illness wasn’t such a taboo topic. I believe that if people were more open with what they have gone through, then others who are going through similar things would feel more comfortable and confident stepping forward to get help.” — Sydney B (junior)
“My parents responded better than I expected. They were worried and wanted to get me the help I needed as soon as possible. I’m grateful for the people who stuck by me and helped me. You don’t need to be scared to reach out. You’re not alone. I know it sounds cheesy but you’re not. People love you. I have a creative outlet which is art. I think talking about it and expressing my feelings can help.” — Gia E (freshman)
“I wish I got help, but eventually I started searching for some. Then everything started to brighten up again. It’s hard to think that there will be a way out but somehow there always is. There is someone in this world who loves you and is looking for you. Nothing has to be monumental to take a step forward. It only takes one tiny step in the right direction.” — Julia A (freshman)
“I believe that setting time to get to know yourself more, is beyond helpful for me. Learn your faults, your mistakes, your loves, and many more aspects of yourself through this process and in the end, accept them as they come. There are so many stories from others who struggle as well that feel lost, yearn for help and a voice. I formed many friendships and learned what stigma is and how it affected me as well. I learned how to approach others and offer help as someone who was battling this illness.” — Nadia G (sophomore)
“Self-care is everything. Do what you need. My best advice for finding things to help you and for keeping the faith is to think of the good version of yourself and what you’d like to be doing. When you’re functioning on such a low percent you won’t be able to do all those things but adding some of them will keep you motivated.
The best thing I have ever done for myself is to find a way to help others. I created an anonymous email address for people to reach out to me and have a place to talk openly email@example.com. Hearing others being in the same place I was months ago and being able to help them a) reminds me to be thankful for where I am and b) that someone is grateful that they had a place. We have to create places for ourselves and be that motivator to ourselves. Reach out to others there are so many who would benefit from hearing your story.” — Piper S (junior)
“Therapy reminds me that I’m not crazy, and rationalizes me when I am. It takes time, but if you put the work in, it can make a huge difference in your life. Meditation has also been a big one for me. I’ve never been a super religious person but when I meditate I feel connected to my spirit, nature and the universe. It’s such a peaceful feeling and is so easy to do.” — Isaac K (junior)
“A few months ago, I found a group of people who I trusted and belonged with. People who’ve gone through similar things. I got medication, which helps me so much but it might work differently for everyone. I still deal with these issues, but they’re much more manageable now.” — Isabelle M (senior)