Mental health is important to me because I know that as a society, we are undergoing a mental health crisis dominated by misunderstandings. I and many others have experienced the realities of this crisis on a level that educational institutions cannot begin to communicate. I believe that with greater awareness and consideration in our community, mental health can be more easily attainable and intellectually grasped.Terra Giddens, Student at UC Santa Barbara
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Share your journey and why this is important to you
My mother was raised in the Chilean dictatorship. Being a woman who knew what it was to not have the ability to speak her mind, she surrounded me with a constant dialogue about the importance of my voice and how I would choose to use it. This turned out to become both metaphorical and literal. When I was thirteen, I began classical singing lessons, which prompted a thrilling journey of being heard loudly and dramatically. However, I knew my voice could mean and do so much more. I began advocating for social issues and dredging up topics that most didn’t want to hear about. As an example, here is a writing sample that I composed recently.
How did we get here?
A series of questions we don’t know the answers to:
I want to begin by providing a trigger warning and assuring that I come from a place of hope for those who are struggling with any form of mental illness. My goal is to contribute to a discussion, to begin to understand myself, and to assist others in their own battles.
When I was 3 years old, I began suffering from severe anxiety. This persisted and manifested into obsessive compulsive tendencies, and eventually lead to a long cycle of depressive episodes that would last several months at a time. In college, I remained in this cycle and continued to suffer from OCD. I struggled to communicate my real thoughts while repeatedly telling loved ones that I was sick. I have sought and received help since I was 16 years old, and I continue to receive treatment.
My experiences have exposed me to the complexities of mental health in a way that no amount of institutional education can. I have much to learn, but I know what it is to feel, observe, recover, relapse, and accept. I have obtained a wide array of qualifications and have had an “unconventional” educational experience. However, there is a primary question about mental health that has always been at the core of my educational career: why does this invisible battle with mental health persist, and where does it come from?
I have been told where my battle originates. I have been told why it continues. I have been told that it matters, and that it doesn’t matter. This dialogue surrounds me every day, and all I can ever think of is a dichotomy that has somehow prevailed throughout treatment sessions, conversations, and inner thoughts. It is a dichotomy of the validity of our mental health versus the “real” issues of the world. It is the pressure that is placed on understanding our own traumas and disorders. I continue to struggle with this, and what I have decided is that we may have to accept that we don’t actually know what we are talking about. This may sound cliché, empty, or naïve. However, I have learned that the first step to any sort of understanding is acknowledging that whatever we think or assume can be eliminated at any moment.
This brings me to my last questions. What do you think? What don’t you think? When was the last time you asked someone these questions? Finally, how would you communicate your own battles and how can that change the world of mental health?
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How would you like to inspire others?
I would like to inspire others to make space in their lives for mental health by always leaning into their vulnerability and acknowledging the validity of their feelings. Personally, I have done this through my art. I revel in the moments where I step on stage and sing for hundreds of people as I notice my fears and work to conquer them. I cherish the times I create an emotional painting and display it, hoping that someone might see it and feel what I felt. Overall, I would like to use my background and abilities to encourage people to seek an understanding of their own mental health and make space for it to exist.
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