Ahead of World Mental Health Day, UCD veterinary student Maggie Lynch writes about her experience of living with depression, her brother’s death from suicide eight years ago, and the importance of getting help.
Mental Health is an important aspect in everyone’s lives. Every single person is affected by it. My name is Maggie and I suffer from depression and anxiety. Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t know what depression was. I couldn’t explain mental health. I didn’t know what was happening to me and I felt like I was the only one who was feeling sad and alone.
Mental illness can develop because of a chemical imbalance in the body or an environmental factor, such as a death in the family, and many other reasons. Regardless of the cause, most people feel trapped in their own world because they can’t control the way they feel. Imagine being locked in a room without a reason to believe you will be let out. You blame yourself, your family, God, anyone honestly. There seems to be no hope.
It has been 10 years since I was diagnosed and only now do I feel confident enough to talk about it. I spent years in and out of therapy and focus groups. Each session taught me a little more about what I was feeling, why and how I could help myself. The main thing it taught me was that I wasn’t alone and that I would get through it as long as I kept talking. I now realise that, when I feel depressed, I become anxious that I will never be a happy person with a fulfilling life, and then I become angry that I can’t control or fix it. I still struggle with this but what everyone should realise is mental illness is a lifelong battle. There isn’t a quick fix but years of talking and healing and sometimes medical support.
Through out my short life of 22 years, I have come to realise how important mental health is. My mom suffers from bipolar disorder, my dad suffers from depression and one of my brother’s committed suicide 8 years ago. This isn’t a sob story. This is a story that I have survived.
My brother was my best friend and the smartest person I knew. He was destined for greatness. Slowly though he became withdrawn and absent. Instead of asking him what was wrong, my family told him to move on with it, grow out of it. He felt alienated and lost. Without a soul to talk to, he chose to stop feeling and stop talking.
It would be easy for me to blame other people that could have asked him if he was ok, or if he needed to talk. But in all honesty, the reason my brother didn’t talk was because he didn’t think he could. He thought no one would listen or understand. He was wrong though. There is always someone who will listen, it might take a couple of tries to find them but they are out there.
You might think I am brave to tell people this because it might help someone. And although I hope reading this will help other students understand they aren’t alone, talking about my experiences helps me more than people know. Whenever I talk about what I am feeling, a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I can breath again.
I believe the reason people don’t feel like they can or should talk is because of the stigma of mental illness. I suffer from depression but I am not unstable or crazy. No one should fear my experiences or me. Everyone has been through hard times at some point in his or her life but no one wants to talk about it because they are afraid. They shouldn’t be afraid. Good mental health starts with good communication. I am on the track to good mental health with every day that I talk about my experiences.
Coming from the United States where there is a pretty big stigma on mental illness, I was nervous. In my opinion, Ireland isn’t known for its understanding. Both my grandparents were born and raised in Ireland and I have heard many stories that ended with “we just didn’t talk about that back then.” I was scared to talk about my experiences here more than ever before. Then I heard about Pleasetalk.ie. I am grateful to know that there are resources here. I don’t think I would be here, in veterinary school, in Ireland, if I hadn’t talked about my experiences, about my depression, and my family.
We have to break the cycle. More people suffer from mental illness than we know because they don’t receive help. The number one reason people don’t feel comfortable talking is because they are afraid. They are afraid because there is a stigma on mental illness that labels people crazy or insane. We need to remove the stigma. We need to move past the fear that so many people have. Why is it that when someone says they survived breast cancer they are applauded but if they say they survived depression they are shunned? We live in an age of science and technology that can help cure cancer and treat depression. The next time someone starts talking about their feelings or something that is bothering them, just listen and urge them to keep talking. It will help more than you can imagine. It helped me.