Editorial: Mental health awareness is crucial

Mental health issues are not just an illness. Mental health issues cause individuals to lead very different lifestyles. Social behavior, physical health, and academic life are all affected by a person’s mental health. As an individual that struggles with clinical depression, anxiety, and ADHD, I find that my well being as a whole is entirely dependent on my mental stability. 

David Johnson,
co-director of photography
My mental health often causes swings in mood and physical health. Feeling depressed and feeling ill often go hand in hand with people such as myself. The reason for this is that intense emotions or anxiety can actually strain the body. The opposite is also true. Physical illness can often cause people with mental illness to feel more depressed. I often find myself feeling tired, or unable to sleep at night. These are both symptoms of depression. 

Some other symptoms, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, include anger, irritability, inability to concentrate, memory problems, difficulty making decisions and loss of interest in things. I find that many of the symptoms on this list affect me personally, and also affect those that I know that also struggle with depression and anxiety. 

Some people who are depressed may use alcohol or drugs. They may become reckless or abusive. A depressed person may consciously avoid talking about it or try to mask the problem. People suffering from depression may be preoccupied with thoughts of death or hurting themselves. There’s an increased risk of suicide.

Children get depressed, too. Signs include clinginess, worry, and unwillingness to attend school. Children may be excessively irritable and negative. Depression can cause headaches, chronic body aches, and pain that may not respond to medication.

Depression is not the only thing that affects physical health and social life, however. Anxiety has a lot of very strong an evident effects on the body. According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical school, “Anxiety prepares us to confront a crisis by putting the body on alert. But its physical effects can be counterproductive, causing light-headedness, nausea, diarrhea, and frequent urination. And when it persists, anxiety can take a toll on our mental and physical health.” 

Anxiety, even without these effects, often causes problems, especially for children. As a kid with ADHD and anxiety, I often got into trouble with my teachers and parents for being “fidgety” and “lacking self-control.” Unfortunately, though these were actually symptoms of my undiagnosed illness, I was punished for what they believed to be misbehavior. 

This kind of thing is very common, especially in schools. Children who are undiagnosed often go large portions of their lives believing that they are a failure or incompetent due to their inability to control these actions. The fact of the matter is, it is not their fault at all. The inability stems directly from something that they cannot control, their own brain. 

That is why it is so important to be educated on mental health. Recognizing and treating mental health issues can go a long way in improving the lives of those inflicted by them. It is impossible to treat something that you do not know exists. For myself, and those others that are affected by mental illness, having a support system full of people that understand or know what you are going through is a powerful force. Be educated, be aware, and make a difference.

Editor's Note: This piece was updated with additional first person narrative after initial publication. (BP)

This piece doubles both as the LSNews.org's official weekly editorial, and a component of our "Inside L-S: Exploring Mental Health" series. The content of this piece represents the collective opinion of the LSNews.org editorial board, and was authored by co-director of photography David Johnson. Any questions or concerns can be directed to lspioneernews@gmail.com

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