Hawks speak out about mental health awareness

Many students struggle with mental health issues. We spoke to some who were willing to share their experiences.


Some students with mental health issues may feel alone, but there are resources available to help.

Tyana Hernandez, Feature Writer

Note: This article features interviews with students. We have chosen to protect their identities.

Throughout our lifetimes, we walk past thousands of people; but how many have you walked past and really took the time to analyze their facial expression and try to figure out what that person would be like? Have you ever stopped and realized that you really don’t know who these people are or what goes on in their daily lives or even what goes through their mind on a daily basis?

Amongst teens and adolescents the most common mental illnesses, according to Lisa Johnson-Haire, a counselor at Hazelwood Central, are depression and anxiety. 20% of youth (ages 13-18) have, or will have with a serious mental health condition, while these numbers may not alarm you: 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness…And suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth.

There are many different types of mental illnesses out there that sometimes are not talked about enough. We know OF it, but we don’t know ABOUT it. There are not always specific symptoms to identify illness, either, instead, it’s almost–within these lines–a system.

“With each Illness, everyone will not experience the same symptoms, each person has unique and individualized symptoms,” said Johnson-Haire.

Living with an illness can change how you may view the world as well as your own self.

“Living with DID (dissociative identity disorder) is genuinely like living with your head in a color changing cloud. You don’t really have a discernible personality and your desires and ideas change constantly because of either having too many identities or not even one. You change a lot. DID is like being given the blueprints of a person but having no idea what the blueprint is or what you’re supposed to do, you’re just told to build it and every day the blueprint changes. You’re struggling with this half-built, ever-changing thing that you’re never really going to finish,” said Jade, a sophomore.

“Living with depression is strange, you make a list in your head of all these things you want to do the next day before going to sleep, but then you wake up in the morning just to find that you barely have the motivation or energy to even get out of bed. Or maybe you’re in your favorite class ready to learn, or out with a group of friends and then -BOOM, a sudden wave of emptiness, exhaustion, and fatigue hits you. You can’t focus, and you try so so hard, you get to a point you’re begging yourself to snap out of it but you just can’t. You could get all the sleep in the world and still be tired,” said Kayden, a senior.

When talking about mental health, there are many false assumptions and misconceptions.

“When it comes to my disorder, I wish people would ask me what they could do to help instead of assuming I was beyond help. Even a lot of counselors and therapists are really bad at handling patients with DID OSDD or DDPD and tend to treat them differently than they would treat someone with anxiety or depression,” said Jade.

Many people also call out a diagnosis without being diagnosed which is not only mindless of someone but also insensitive, especially if you’re using it in the wrong context (for example: ‘I can be angry, laugh then cry, I swear I’m bipolar’). Also, there is a lot of cultural tension and stigma regarding mental illnesses and treatment. Some would probably say something like ‘Only White people cut’ or ‘Only White people get depression’, which in all reality is entirely false. Mental illnesses are not something someone can escape from, they are not a choice and it is just as serious as getting a disease. No one is excluded from the possibility of obtaining a mental illness.

There are also problems with social media and television platforms falsely informing you about mental health. They do what can be referred to as “Glitterizing” an illness. Television is made usually for entertainment so of course, they’ll make it be more appealing to watch by amplifying issues inaccurately.

I just wish people would stop comparing DID with the movie ‘Split’, Or ‘13 Reasons Why’ with Depression and suicide,” said Jade.

Many people, quite possibly even the ones close to you, are silently in turmoil. It is not always apparent that someone is in a battle with themselves every day, nor does everyone feel comfortable discussing it.   

“Just be mindful of other people and their reaction to something you’re doing or talking about because things like dissociative disorder can have triggers that seem insignificant to others,” said Jade.

“I often go to the hospital for Checkups usually 3-6 months apart, and each time I am given a questionnaire asking things like ‘Have you had thoughts of harming yourself/others’, ‘do you find little pleasure in things you enjoy’ or ‘Have you had serious thoughts of ending your life’, things like that, not that I go for that specific reason but they are required to give that to everyone. I always checked off the wrong boxes because I hate attention being drawn to me, so I lied for years. The ‘signs’ aren’t always visible, even when you try to watch closely..my advice is to be aware of what you say around anyone no matter who they are. If someone does come to you, try to keep an open mind, let them get everything off their chest before you say anything so you get the whole picture; Don’t listen to them with only your knowledge in mind, or tell them what they must do, instead suggest things. Just to avoid added pressure,” said Kayden.

Imagine living in someone else’s’ head, truly their ideology or thought process would be far different from your own because everyone doesn’t have the same experiences, or personality. As humans, we each have our own coping mechanisms: some people use anger to counteract their emotions, others cry, some people listen to music, some people use art to escape their minds. But what happens when anyone has been living with a mental illness?

“Dealing with depression and anxiety has always been one of the biggest things I’ve had to deal with in life, especially considering the fact I’ve kept it to myself for the majority of the time.  I pushed everyone I knew away from me, and they didn’t realize I was in ‘self destruct mode’. Though, I feel like since I have had to deal with it for so long, I lost a sense of what my true personality could have been. Right now, I’m just this girl who is socially awkward to a point people think I’m mute, and very closed off from everyone…but it wasn’t always like that; I used to be more open and flamboyant while at the same time was still shy. Living like this, I feel like I hold myself back from so many opportunities because I overthink situations. The only thing I am truly sure about is my passion for art, it helps sometimes too, but other than that I’m not entirely sure who I am,” said Tamara, a junior.

It is very important to realize that, no matter what a person is going through, the person is always first. Even if it seems this person has completely lost themselves, they are not their illness, they are still a person.

Remember that there is help-services out there that can help people and families. The earlier a person gets treated the better the outcome.

St. Louis County Youth Connection Helpline Info:

Call: 314-628-2929 or 1-877-928-2929

Chat Online

Text: 4HLP to 31658

GO: Local safe place