Sports are a good way to heal, too. There were so many days that were utterly horrible and as soon as I got into the water for swim practice, I couldn’t hold on to anything anymore. Exercising releases dopamine (the chemical that helps you feel happy) in your brain. It can also help you sleep better and feel less anxious. Sports are a productive way to release frustration and, most importantly, heal.
The real reason I’m writing about my story, however, is not to talk about why everything sucks, but to bring awareness to something we don’t want to talk about: mental illness. In 2014, the second leading cause of death in teens ages 15-24 was suicide, with 5,079 deaths. Out of people ages 5-16, 1 in 10 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. Other types of mental health disorders, including depression, affect more people than you can imagine.
With so many people suffering, why are therapists something we don’t want to talk about? Why is taking medicine for your brain so much more taboo than medicine for any other part of your body? Why don’t we treat people whose hurt comes from their brain the same way we treat people whose hurt comes from low blood sugar, or a broken bone?
Not acknowledging the fact that we, as humans, struggle— a very human thing to do—is a crucial flaw in how we handle mental illness. And not acknowledging that depression isn’t the only thing that people can struggle with is one of the others. When “mental illness” comes up, our first thought shouldn’t just be depression, but other painful diseases as well: OCD, schizophrenia, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and so many more.
A study by the California Healthcare Foundation states that “about half of adults and two-thirds of adolescents with mental health needs [do] not get treatment.” The first step to lowering these statistics is to talk about what we go through. Don’t be afraid to tell your teacher you have a therapy appointment. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with a therapist. Don’t be afraid to speak up.