Last year I did a few interviews for this newspaper on mental health issues and they respectfully changed my name. And that is something any person dealing with any sort of mental health issue should expect – a sense of security in a world where these sorts of disorders are not understood. You should never be expected to talk about it before you are ready, never be expected to justify your thoughts or feelings to anyone and you should never feel as though your disorder makes you less of a person. What you do deserve, though, is to know that you are not alone.
Until a few weeks ago, I was not ready to talk to anyone other than my absolutely closest friends about any of my problems. Today, however, I am comfortable admitting that I suffered from a slew of mental disorders over the past four years, including an eating disorder, depression and terrible anxiety. I felt alone in the world and with very few resources to choose from. The mental health resolution written last year was in direct response to my difficulty getting help on campus, and I am proud to say that there has been vast improvement on that front. However, this topic is still a hushed one. It is uncomfortable, I understand that, but it is important to recognize its presence on campus and in your life.
There is no right way to handle these sorts of situations, and it is alright if you do not understand them. These disorders are intricate and confusing even to those who suffer from them. Be aware though, and take action. If you feel your friend has a serious problem, approach them and talk to them about it. They might get defensive, but the best thing you can do is offer a channel for them to get help. Sometimes the most helpful thing is not advice but a person who is willing to listen, willing to be completely confused and willing to stick by their friend regardless of what is revealed. I wish there was not such a big stigma surrounding mental disorders, and while I made a step this past Sunday to open up about myself, I realized that posting a picture on Facebook talking about my problems did not reach enough people.
Pilots, it is alright to suffer. It is alright if you cannot control what is happening to you. But you deserve help and you deserve to reach out for that help. You are worth it. Please take a risk and reach out.
What saddens me most is that upon opening up, a friend approached me and shared a story about eating disorders on campus that floored me. Students, faculty, administration, everyone please read this story and understand that those suffering are not at fault, but there is a huge issue with the fact that those we should trust most are ignoring this blatant problem. We have been actively fighting against wrong on this campus lately, and I hope this can rally you for one more stand.
Julia Balistreri is a senior chemistry major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.