By Savannah Lewis
If you were to meet me at first, you would see someone who excels in school, who works, writes and does everything she is supposed to. I am a part of a lot of organizations, and I have a good number of friends. I do not look like someone who suffers with mental illness — at least until my boss finds me crying in the bathroom or until my fiance wakes up to me screaming due to night terrors.
I am a person with anxiety, depression and PTSD, but I do not function the way society may expect me to. I still get good grades. I still socialize and work two jobs. At the same time, I can be flaky and overly emotional. I have been described by professors as great in class — at least when I show up. Sometimes, my stomach hurts so badly that I can’t leave the house.
I am not alone in this. All nine members of The Cauldron’s staff have stated that they have dealt with mental health issues, either now or in the past. We all do well in school, have many jobs and do other activities, and yet, all of us have had to deal with this type of illness.
Because mental health issues seem to be common, you might guess that people who suffer with this have access to treatment or understanding from friends, family and even professors or bosses. But anyone who has dealt with mental health problems will be able to tell you this is not the case.
In high school, teachers made fun of me in front of their class because I was frequently absent. I dropped classes because I was being bullied for my panic attacks. Being in college hasn’t made matters much better. I have been teased for my stuttering and am constantly given the “it could be worse” talk by both faculty and friends.
The Editor-in-Chief of The Cauldron has also expressed how her depression has been blatantly ignored or worsened by faculty here. She has experienced professors offering help with classes until she mentioned her mental health issues, which then caused their helpful attitudes to become angry, blaming her for everything she was experiencing. She now records her conversations with faculty when discussing her mental health as a safety precaution. We are only two students out of many at Cleveland State University who have faced these issues.
It is so important for people who have a leadership position over others to understand that people are not always robots. We cannot always do what is asked of us. This understanding could be more than relieving for people who suffer from mental illness; it could be life-saving. To have at least one person who hears what they are going through and to be supportive can be what it takes to keep that person going.
Of course, I know no one can know what other people are going through all the time. People are not able to read your mind if you are hurting. It is up to the person who is dealing with the issues to be vocal. But it’s not easy to be vocal when people tell you that you are too sensitive. It’s hard to express your feelings when everyone tells you that other people have it worse. It’s terrifying to be open because society has a habit of equating mental illness with being incapable or problematic. This stigma needs to end. It can be seen everywhere, including on our own campus. It’s hard enough to prove to yourself you are worthy of love and understanding; you shouldn’t have to convince others of the same thing.
College is a breeding ground for mental health problems. The stress that comes from juggling classes, extracurricular activities and work can cause students to develop a plethora of issues that they may have never dealt with before going to college. Questions like how will I get a job or where am I going to live in a year, race through the minds of students constantly. College is a place of uncertainty, and students desperately need to feel like they have a support system if needed.
Fortunately, there are some people who work at Cleveland State who do what they can for students. My advisor is someone who has gone above and beyond for me and is one of the only reasons I have been able to continue my journey here. This is not the case with all of our faculty, but it’s a start. We as a university need to not only speak out about the importance of good mental health, but be a community that is open and understanding to all mental illnesses, where students can share their experiences. Your issues are your own, but you are not alone.