Student Brings Mental Illness Into Focus

Eight students attended one of the few student run lectures UC Irvine has to offer on the issue of mental health on the night of Thursday April 24, at 7 p.m. in Engineering Tower 202.

Elizabeth Zeladon, second year english major held a public lecture informing students of the dangers and severity of mental illness and how they could help. Originally Zeladon decided to hold the lecture and music night as part of a leadership class but she also had another incentive that drove her.

“The reason I’m having this event is that I’m part of a leadership course and as part of that I need to do a community project. The second reason is that mental health is an important topic, especially for college students,” Zeladon said.

Mental illness refers to a wide variety of problems that affect personality, sleep patterns, social development, mood, eating patterns, and changes in brain function. Currently about one in four Americans over the age of 18 suffer from a treatable mental illness according to the National Institute for Mental Health. However as Zeladon acknowledged many do not take this seriously either from lack of knowledge or lack of caring.

“People think mental illness is not serious because you cannot see them. People are much quicker to raise awareness like for cancer or other [illnesses] then they are for mental illnesses.”

Zeladon went on to explain that one in 17 adults suffer from serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or severe depression. Some have multiple disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders though there are no reliable statistics for these kinds of cases. Mental illnesses are difficult to account for because they can be hard to evaluate and the person with a disorder may be ashamed to admit they have it and as a result refuse to be tested for it because of the social stigma attached with a diagnosis. Mental illness is often associated with poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination, therefore there is no surprise that many who know they have a mental illness don’t want others to know.

“One of the problems is that many who do have mental illnesses don’t seek help,”Zeladon said when referring to those suffering from mental illnesses. As she went on to say people from all socio-economic groups suffer from mental illnesses. “There are people who think that people who have mental illnesses bring it upon themselves, it’s because you’re this way that this is happening to you. You know you’re depressed that’s because you aren’t trying hard enough or the way you were raised or you are emotionally weak… it has nothing to do with that.”

One of those people was Zeladong herself. When she was younger she experienced many of the symptoms of depression but did not want to worry her parents and did not seek medical help until freshman year when she confirmed that she had depression. “I was diagnosed with depression on May 7, 2013, two days before my nineteenth birthday, so happy birthday I guess,” she recounted.

After discovering she had depression she went to the counselling center to get treatment. Zeladong’s story can be considered a success. Every year suicide is among the top three leading causes of death for people aged 16-24. Last year

In the end Zeladon called on everyone who had a mental illness or knew those that did to control their problem and seek help on their own initiative for only when those that suffer seek help can the solution be found.

“You have to take control of the recovery process. No one can do it for you.”