One of my strongest activisms that I want to partake in as part of my life’s work is to spread more awareness and understanding of mental health issues as well as the de-stigmatization of mental illness/mental health issues in society. As someone who has suffered from depression and has a history with anxiety that I’ve been able to manage currently but will most likely always have– I feel like these issues need to be shed more light onto versus stigmatization and ignorance from others. Not only do I have first hand experience with mental health but my family has a history of mental illness– my elder sister has schizophrenia. However, just because she and others have mental illness doesn’t mean that they can’t still live her life to the fullest. In my sisters case, we are so fortunate to have our mother and our family supporting eachother; she’s living life as best she could by going to school (accommodations in place ofcourse). Having mental health issues or even mental illness also doesn’t mean that they are less than or not talented (she is very talented in art and smart in various ways that I am not) .
During my collegiate years (which is still pretty recent seeing as I just graduated last summer) I had no idea I would encounter staff/professors/ and students even that are ignorant of mental health issues. I had a professor that dismissed me having a legitimate anxiety disorder (generalized anxiety) when I asked for an extension on a paper when he said “I can’t give you an extension just because you’re stressed, everyone gets stressed”. Not only was he ignorant but he also vocally expressed his ignorance and bigotry about it instead of inquiring further about anxiety. I calmly explained to him “I’m not like everyone—I have anxiety which is a mental health issue. Not everyone processes stress the same way and I’m one of those people who doesn’t process it normally due to my brain chemistry which means I feel more overwhelmed/anxious/stressed than your average person.”.
Despite knowing that I have medical documents of me seeing a therapist and being diagnosed with generalized anxiety (a legitimate mental health issue) he still refused the extension and just saw me as someone who was trying to get more than what was given. I took it to the Dean of English’s office and he saw my side and inquired the professor—and the professor still refused (he was kind of pissed off that I took it to the Deans office) and there was nothing he could do since the professor was under his department. One of the worst experiences of my life. A few months later, I realized I had to sign up with the disability resource center….otherwise I would be subjected at the mercy of a professor for any subject I take wanting any specific accommodations. And yes, professors can be bigoted and stubborn too, despite attending a liberal university. I mostly stayed away from the DRC previously because of the stigma attached to the word “disabled”. I didn’t think that I wasn’t disabled…and I still don’t think that I’m disabled …I just have certain triggers that others don’t and my brain chemistry is different therefore I would need/ require certain accommodations that your average student wouldn’t need. Also, the word “disabled” disempowers those individuals that have specific needs that others don’t. Those needs/accomodations should be respected and taken care of the same way a person with a broken leg needs a wheel chair. And that is okay. That doesn’t mean we are less than or not capable of having full lives, we just need to destigmatize mental health/mental illness. I find when I am not stressed or in a stressful environment where my anxiety gets triggered thats when I can perform any task at my best. Dealing with people who are ignorant of anxiety disorders/depression/ mental illness only makes things worse for those individuals, like Professor Jason Pearl. After filing a medical withdrawal for his class and being approved for it I swiftly filed a complaint against this professor. It should be illegal for any faculty or staff to deny accomodations to a student who has a mental health condition –protected by the DRC or not.
And its also very scary for us.
I am easily prone to stress/anxiety/ and feelings overwhelming fear that I am immobilized to do anything about it. The good thing about this experience is that at 25, I know all my triggers and while I still have off days I try my best and do what I can to cope living in this fast-paced capitalistic society. It hasn’t gotten easier, just more manageable.
If we had more people that weren’t ignorant of mental health issues we would have less problems with people who don’t understand it. The whole scenario of me versus Professor J. Pearl wouldn’t have happened or maybe to a lesser degree. Better yet Professor J.Pearls wouldn’t exist or there would be less of them. The fact that bigoted people still exist when it comes to mental health still astounds me. You can’t deny science or facts unless you have a really strong cognitive dissonance. And many people still do and thats why we should all start our activism in our every day lives. Being educated, informed, and also empathic of others can only make you a more well rounded and intelligent individual. Ignorance and cant and won’t ever bring you knowledge or empathy just more misunderstandings and bigotry.
Also imagine how many people with mental health issues would no longer feel fear about sharing their illnesses with others. How many of them can actually live normal lives, feel happier, less stigmatized, stressed, ect. just by knowing others have their back and are willing to provide them the accommodations necessary to live a full and happy life. Mental health awareness in our society is a must—especially when 1 in 4 adults suffer from mental health issues currently. Be the change <3.