Breaking the silence

Stephanie Carballo, Staff Writer

Mental illness is something that affects more people than most think. Mental illnesses can affect anyone at any age, but the young and old are especially susceptible to them.

The leading mental illnesses in America are: anxiety disorders, minor and major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. According to The National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI), 20% of young people ages 8 to 18 will experience a severe mental disorder in any given year. NAMI also reports that 1 out of 4 adults, 57.7 million people, will experience one of the leading mental illnesses within a one year span.

Mental illness is especially a concern for students. Many students with mental illnesses are much more prone to having trouble functioning in a school environment. Mentally ill students can have trouble focusing, accomplishing tasks, and responding to involuntary changes in their daily routines. Students struggling with depression and social anxiety find it especially difficult to communicate and form proper relationships with their peers and teachers.

NAMI states that over 50 percent of mentally ill students will drop out of school due to their disability. 90 percent of young people ages 15 to 24 who committed suicide were suffering from one or more types of mental illness.

Many students feel that if they open up to their teachers or peers about their mental illness, they will be criticized for it. Mentally ill students are aware of the social stigma that surrounds mental illnesses. Many think that mentally ill people are weak because they are not able to overcome their illness and some don’t think mental issues are even considered real “illnesses”. This social stigma comes from not being well informed about mental illnesses and not understanding the intensity of the impact a mental illness can have on someone’s daily life.

“I feel like people will see me differently if they know that I have a mental illness. Or they just won’t understand what I’m going through and judge me.” says an anonymous Ontario High School student.
Another anonymous student says, “I’ve heard people making fun of mental illnesses and making mean jokes about them so I understand why people who are mentally ill would be scared to open up. Some people just don’t take mental illnesses seriously and I think that’s really sad.”

Because of this fear, mentally ill students isolate themselves from their families and peers and struggle with their illness alone. Many students are unaware that their school can direct them towards professional help and can also provide them with accommodations to reduce their stress due to their mental illness.

If you are aware that someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, be there to support and persuade them to get professional help. It is important that as a society and a community, we educate ourselves on the struggles of others so that when these issues present themselves, we do not misunderstand or judge a person suffering through a mental illness. A mental illness is a silent, internal struggle and we need to be more sympathetic of the sufferings of others.