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April 30, 2018 | by  | in Editorial |
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Editor’s Letter

Growing up, mental illness was heavily stigmatized in my family. Not in a blatant way, I just picked up on my parent’s attitudes and reactions. I remember one family fight where my mum said to my sister, “maybe you need to see a psychologist”. I remember feeling shocked. “You’ve really gone too far this time,” I thought.

Unsurprisingly, going to Otago Student Health to see the counsellor for the first time was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I’d struggled with the decision for a long time; “my life is fine,” I’d think, which was completely at odds with all the times I was curling up on the floor of my room, feeling miserable. I hated admitting weakness, hated admitting that there was something wrong.

Seeing a counsellor for the first time wasn’t a great experience. He spent a decent chunk of the session telling me about how he used to be a sheep farmer, and when I broke down and cried and told him I felt lonely and had no friends, he told me he could be my friend. Yup. Great. That’d fix all my problems. And then time was up. I left that session with my head ducked so the other students couldn’t see my tears (probs didn’t work), feeling angry and cheated.

The counselling was shit, but it still did something. Going to student health was my first admission that I needed help. Once I broached that possibility, it opened me to spending time working towards getting better.

I’ve been to various different kinds of therapy since then. From that, I’ve developed an understanding of what wellness looks like, and how to achieve it. For me, this means trusting my friends, figuring out what my needs are and how they can be met, and recognising those false core beliefs for what they are. I still feel a little awkward and self-indulgent talking about my problems, but I’ve realised that some people genuinely care, and want to help.

It’s hard to talk about mental health sometimes. There’s shame involved. There’s a lot to talk about, it’s complicated, and no one really has all the answers. But If everyone talked about the things they are ashamed of, then the stigma would cease to exist, because all that stuff would just be normal. Shame burns away in the sunlight.

It’s important to talk about mental health. If we keep the sad, scary parts of ourselves hidden, the parts of ourselves that we’re ashamed of, no one’s gonna know that it’s there, no one’s gonna know it’s a problem, and then no one can help. If we kept the sad scary parts of society hidden, then we can’t work together to change things.

I think that all our writers shared their stories are brave and amazing. I’m so proud of everyone’s openness and vulnerability. By writing, they let the world know this is going on, and let others know that they are not alone.

As always, there’s a billion things we didn’t have the chance to talk about. The stories here are powerful, not as an encompassing overview, but as a snapshot in time, a window into some students’ realities.

Thank you for reading.

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