10 Things I Wish I Had Been Told About Mental Health in High School

Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

I have been in college for one month now. I have learned so much about my mental health in this month. I have been the happiest I can ever remember being, but I have also had one of the hardest depressive episode I have ever had.

Here are the things I wish I had been told in high school:

1. You are not alone in this battle.

2. You are not the only one who feels this way. I have learned there are so many people dealing with the same thing as me, but hiding it and feeling alone like me.

3. Your thoughts and feelings are 100 percent valid, but not 100 percent true. What you are feeling is valid. Don’t let people tell you that you are making it up. You are not worthless. You are beautiful. You are needed. You do not bother people by asking for help.

4. It is OK to take a day off sick, just not too often. Taking a mental health day was the best decision I have made all school year. On a day I could not function because of a depressive episode, I took a day off, and my recovery was so much faster than I have ever had. I did not spend the day sitting at home in self-pity though; I got out and did something that relaxed me. I went on a three-hour drive and did a lot of photography.

5. Don’t let yourself be alone if you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, even if you know you will not act on them. Thoughts of self-loathing and worthlessness thrive in secluded conditions. Even if it is just a pet, or sitting in the same room as a family member, do not let yourself be alone.

6. Self-harm is very hard to stop — don’t let yourself start. There are many types of self-harm, but self-harm is anything that is done to hurt the surface of the body to cope with situations, feelings and emotions. I didn’t realize what I was doing was self-harm, and by the time I realized, it was very hard to stop. There are healthier ways to cope: talk to someone, exercise, write and many more. Give yourself a reminder to not self-harm.

7. Telling people about your mental illness may be awkward, but they are more understanding of the situation. I have had many friends and teachers who I have had to go to for support and help. There are a lot of people who act awkward in conversations about mental illness, but the understanding and help that is given with others having that knowledge is incredible.

8. Not everyone understands, but most people mean well. Not everyone has seen or dealt with mental illness. Growing up, my Dad never understood what it felt like to be upset, and not be able to just make yourself happy. He is a naturally happy, upbeat person, so he cannot empathize as much with me as my mom does, who has dealt with depression. That does not mean he does not try to help, but his help is not always the right thing for the situation.

9. People will tell you that you just need to get outside more, exercise more, eat healthier — but those are not cure-alls. Although those things are good for your body and mind, they cannot cure mental illness. They may help some, but they are not all we need to do. To people who are not dealing with mental illness, these things do work. These things release endorphins which boost mood, but depression is a chemical imbalance, and those endorphins aren’t released the same way.

10. It is OK to ask for help! This is a big one I have learned in the last year. If you are struggling, get the help you need. It is so scary to ask the first time. I was so scared of even saying the word depression, but now it has gotten easier. I have learned that there are so many people who care about you and are more than willing to help you or get you the help you need.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

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