Mental Health Awareness Week: A Step Forward

There are things people don’t tell you about getting better. Like how hard it is when you’ve been stable for so long and then suddenly it feels like you’ve been hit by a truck—like all the healing has been for nothing and you have to start from scratch. But it’s not for nothing. In our current society, we are expected to keep up with our fast-paced lives and be fine. And if we’re not, we are often told to either get over it or that it’s just a phase. But I’m here to say that whatever you are feeling is valid, and you shouldn’t be ashamed.

Growing up, mental illness wasn’t talked about. There is still a huge stigma today regarding mental health and the conversations around it. This stigma can be seen in minority communities where resources for mental health aren’t readily accessible. In Indigenous communities, suicide rates and the number of people diagnosed with mental illness are higher than the national average.

The thing about depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues is that they don’t just go away. It can’t be covered by a cast or bandage and it really can’t be seen. Sometimes, when people ask you “what’s wrong?” it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is or how to put it into words. Just because you are feeling something you can’t entirely explain, doesn’t mean it isn’t valid or that you are weak. You are also not alone.

I am reminded often about a quote from a poet that I admire that goes:

I have been told sometimes the most healing thing we can do
is remind ourselves over and over and over
other people feel this too.

As hard as it is sometimes to think of others going through what I am feeling, it does help me feel less shame. It also allows me to feel hopeful knowing that if others are getting through this then I can to.

Be proud of the “little” things you accomplish. What might be easy for others, might be harder for you some days. If you got out of bed today, I’m proud of you. If you went out and faced the day, I’m proud of you. And if all you did today was wake up, I am so proud and happy you are still here. Today, let your existence be enough because you are enough, and your story is not over.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at:  1-800-273-8255. For more resources for yourself or others please visit: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/native-americans/ or https://twloha.com/find-help/

Scarlett Cortez is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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