By Sarah Bannon
When I was asked to write this column, I had no idea where to start. Mental health is a topic of
conversation that I am so passionate about, so I thought it would be easy. Turns out – it wasn’t.
My story with mental health was something I was willing to share; however, summarizing it into an 800-word story seemed impossible. I wanted to inspire others to be an active voice in the community, stand up for themselves, and advocate for mental health everywhere. I wanted to minimize the stigma, and talk about uncomfortable conversations we ignore.
According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2019, 47,511 Americans died of suicide. Nonetheless, those numbers have skyrocketed in the past two years due to the financial crisis and a global pandemic.
These numbers scare me.
Losing someone scares me.
As the young adults in our generation, we have the potential and ability to change lives and help others going through unimaginable times. I want to make a difference, and this is what I have learned.
I believe my future career as an occupational therapist embodies the true Springfield College philosophy; educating the whole person in spirit, mind, and body for leadership and service to others. This is something that I believe is absolutely pivotal to a healthy and happy lifestyle. As I go through my first year of graduate school and read literature from theorists and scholars from long ago, I realized this philosophy is not a foreign one – but one that is critical to teach.
As I think back to the year 2020, I can remember losing myself in all three components of this philosophy. I lost myself spiritually; I had no drive or ambition. I stopped listening to music – something I did everyday. I stopped writing and felt careless as I dragged myself through each day. I lost every ounce of creativity that I had.
My body felt weak and I stopped caring about staying physically fit because I just couldn’t anymore.
As I drifted further and further away, I became more frustrated with myself. I didn’t have the answers, and sometimes you just don’t. But I really had no idea what I was doing, or what I wanted. I felt like a puppet, going through the motions and further into a terrible episode of depression. I had a lot on the line and I didn’t know which path I wanted to take in terms of my educational career. I was lost.
The journey came full circle when I finally recovered and made a speech at my final NSO Circle of Support session with all of the incoming students this fall. I spoke out about my entire experience, depression, anxiety, psychiatric care and I felt liberated from everything that I had gone through the year before.
The best part about the experience was the many people who came up to me and asked for advice or expressed they appreciated the speech. That moment is one that I’ll hold close forever, and look to if I ever feel like I’m at rock bottom again.
I was told by a psychologist once that it’s “experiences” that change the brain. Experiences that give us confidence, and that rewire our negative, intrusive thoughts. She said there is no magic fix, and I knew that. But the word “experience” is what truly stood out to me. I pondered on the conversation, and believed it to be such a true reflection.
Life is all about experience. So many tiny moments that make up memories that make up a year and then soon a decade. These moments go by fast, and change us for the worse and for the better, but it is up to you to create how you see those moments.
Perspective and responsibility are two internal challenges I have been working on this year. Responsibility for my actions, my happiness, and recognizing the control I have and don’t have over the world. Perspective, because there are so many facets to each situation and experience. We can look at things from so many different perspectives; this has helped me to step back this year. I’ve been realizing the responsibilities I have for myself, and looking at the world from a different angle.
I challenge myself and everyone around me to dig deep and offer two internal challenges for the following year. They can be as small as making your bed each day or reaching out for help when you seriously need it. Maybe even confiding in someone you trust. A challenge to teach others about the spirit, mind, and body philosophy – something we should all follow – to speak out about your mental health journey, or even just recognizing your responsibility to be kind and gentle with yourself.
We only have so many moments on this journey, but we have the power to create an abundance of growth, lessons, and memories along the way.
Photo Courtesy Sarah Bannon