I was four years old when I had my first panic attack. My mother and I were at the Oxford Valley Mall in my hometown, waiting in line at an Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand right across from KB Toys. So, I asked to go browse the Barbie dolls that were on a display toward the front of the store and she “okayed” since I would be in sight. I pulled my favorite to show to my mom. Like any concerned parent after their child removes an unpaid item from a store, she rushed me to put it back. Scared and confused, I obeyed.
My heart raced. My breath quickened. My hands shook. My throat closed up. My eyes filled with tears. Above all, I had this overwhelming pressure in my chest. Being a nurse, my mother taught me how to be in tune with my body. I looked to her through my straight-cut bangs and said, “my heart hurts.”
I was scooped up, taken to the car and rushed to the nearest hospital because my poor mother probably thought that her one and only child was having a heart problem. When it was deemed a panic attack, I learned that there may be more to follow. Sure enough, I began missing days and weeks of class in high school to avoid being caught in a panic in front of peers. This is a reality for 2.7% of the U.S. population who are diagnosed with Panic Disorder. It should not come as a surprise that mental health is an extremely important issue to me. Overall, 20% of people in the U.S. are living with mental a illness. Having a conversation is the only way we can break the stigma for those one in five people that may be feeling very isolated.
Having a conversation is the only way we can break the stigma…
World Mental Health Day
Thursday, Oct. 10 was World Mental Health Day, created in 1992 by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the goal of promoting mental health advocacy and educating the public in mind. The focus for 2019 read as “40 seconds to action.” The WHO aimed to bring awareness to the most prevalent issue in the world of mental illness: suicide.
Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. It is crucial to treat mental illness before suicide becomes an option. The first educational video under the headline on WHO’s website is focused around a teacher’s role in preventing suicide in teens and young adults.
Between 2008 and 2016, suicide rates in those ages 15-24 increased more than any other age group. Those that interact with teens and young adults — teachers and parents — should pay special attention to behaviors that may indicate struggling in their students and children. It is beneficial to have a conversation in the classroom or at home about mental health prior to spotting these behaviors in a teen or young adult.
Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran got the conversation started at a national level on Instagram with a hilarious video for World Mental Health Day. “Orange is the New Black” star Ruby Rose opened up about her past suicide attempts. The counseling center on our campus brought awareness through the easiest way to a homesick college student’s heart: dogs. Free stress balls, self-care tips and a hotline info card accompanied each visit to their Sykes table this past week.
Keep yourself mentally healthy
We often get so busy that we forget to take care of ourselves. Here are some tips to keep your brain as healthy as your GPA.
- Get seven to eight hours of sleep. It is unclear whether depression affects sleep or sleep affects depression.
- Limit your caffeine consumption. Caffeine can interfere with sleep and cause you to feel more anxious.
- Check in with your friends or family regularly. Relationships with people are important. I call my mom at least twice a week, and it makes us both happy.
- Exercise! Even if it’s just walking to class instead of a quick drive from your apartment in town, every step counts.
- Make time for fun. All work and no play can make you feel pretty anxious.
Kirsten Magas is a fourth-year English major with minors in creative writing and journalism. KM867219@wcupa.edu