Queen’s faces of mental illness: Depression & therapy

As part of Mental Illness Awareness Week, Lifestyle is featuring personal stories from Queen’s student each day from Oct. 6-10. We will be continuing the initiative throughout the year with monthly stories. If you’re interested in submitting a story, please email journal_lifestyle@ams.queensu.ca.

We’re students, we talk. We talk about music, we talk about our ambitions, our sports, our crushes, our hobbies and our school. What we aren’t talking about enough is our mental health.

I’m talking about depression.

This disorder has affected many within my circle of family and friends and, most likely, it affects someone you know and care as well. While there have been improvements concerning the stigma surrounding depression, the steps to seeking professional help are often still battled alone and in silence.

My cousin was heavily depressed for five years before pursuing support. She claimed that the first and most difficult obstacle to overcome was admitting to herself that she needed help at all.

She claimed that she was unable to accept that what she had was an illness and that no one she knew had ever admitted to having a mental illness before. She struggled to associate herself with what she thought to be such a “heavy” word — depression.

A friend of mine, Laura, recently described to me her own struggle with depression. For the past year, she’d been having frequent suicidal thoughts that she was unable to tell anyone about. Finally she told her sister and, realizing how much it scared her, she decided it was time to find support.

Thankfully, Laura was able to seek help while away at school and has since experimented with various forms of therapy that have proven to make a difference.

Laura sees a therapist for 45 minutes a week. She claims talking to a therapist is helpful because it’s someone who is external from her “bubble” that can listen to her and teach her techniques to regulate her emotions.

Laura believes that talking with someone she doesn’t know on a personal level offers a rational and unbiased approach to therapy, and has helped to alleviate much of the stress associated with the student lifestyle.

Not only does Laura talk to a therapist, but she chose to take part in an 8-week study of ways to improve mental health. Selected participants have been split into groups to practice Bikram Yoga or aerobic exercise and are currently halfway through the study. Laura claims to enjoy the activities as it’s nice to be a part of something and have a commitment.

Whether someone chooses to discuss their depression or to keep it private is entirely up to them. What needs to be erased is the fear experienced in acknowledging the disorder, as it’s this innate fear that holds people back from attaining the help they need.

It’s my hope that bringing the topic of depression out of the shadows and into the conversation is a big step toward eliminating this fear. Hopefully those affected know that they always have someone to reach out to, whether it be a friend or a stranger.

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