Welcome to Deep Zots. This is the first issue of the year. My name is Naser Dashti, I am a senior undergraduate studying sociology. Joining me in the following discussion are Silvia Avetisian and Kristine Libunao, presidents of a new club on campus, No Strings Attached (A Peer Support Network). I recently joined the organization as membership director and I think this is a topic that is under addressed. You may listen to the full interview on itunes (search deepzots) or by going to: deepzots.com
Naser: So, what do you guys think of mental health? Kristine, what is it about mental health that attracted you to the subject?
Kristine: I feel like with mental health, it implicates a lot of people so I mean it effects everyone and it kind of starts early and I feel like a lot of people don’t even talk about mental health and [whether] they have it or not. Some people might not even know that they have [a mental illness], but there are a lot of issues – cultural, social and what not that do lead to the stigma of mental health [illness].
Silvia: I have some friends who suffer from mental illnesses. So just from experiencing some of them not really being aware [of their] mental illness or trying to hide it from their friends, that affected me. I want to reach out and help bring them out of their shell, show them that it’s okay to reach out. I think [it’s] also part of the stigma that they’re afraid to reach out for help. I really want to eliminate that.
Naser: What comes to mind when you think of mental health?
Silvia: Well, what’s interesting is my friend who suffers from a mental illness told me that mental illness isn’t about being happy, it’s about surviving. That really put things into perspective for me, and I realize now that it’s something that people have to live with for the rest of their lives. It’s something that they battle with everyday.
Naser: I mean do you have to be severely ill before..
Kristine: You get help?
Naser: Yeah, before you focus on being well. […] There are so many habits, healthy habits that if incorporated can further your mental well being, you know? That changes your life, I think because it changes everything. It changes your experience. Everything you know, everything you believe is through your mind. Everything you think about another person is through your mind. So if that mind of yours is cloudy your whole experience is cloudy.
Silvia: I think you should always focus on improving your mental well-being, but you can’t choose if you have a mental illness. I think that’s the point where you just have to make sure that you address both the mental illness and mental well-being.
Naser: I don’t think you can
choose if you have a mental illness, but you can choose what you do from that point. You can choose to you know…you can accept it.
Naser: You can get help for it–support. Support groups are massive. There are people around, like if you sit in a group as we were saying there are people at different levels of your journey sitting around you and each person has some wisdom that they can share with you. […]
Silvia: I think it’s interesting that sometimes you can reach out to strangers and you’d be surprised by how receptive they are. […] Just through a personal experience; someone that I wasn’t exactly the closest with came to me for help, instead of going to their best friends. They told me the reason was because they were afraid to tell their best friends about their problem because it would hit too close to home. So, it’s important to be there not just for your best friends, but just to be there for everyone in general.
Naser: One thing I’ve noticed too is people who have had some kind of struggle themselves they’re much more open to helping.
Kristine: Especially since they know…I feel like a lot of people feel alone during the struggle that they have and it’s really hard for other people to reach out. I feel like they use their own experience and their struggle and say ‘hey you know I’m here. I’m here for you.’
Naser: Because I know it’s a hard place to be.
Kristine: Exactly! and I know that it’s hard to come out from where you are and I‘ve been through that. I’ve overcome it and I’m here for you to know that I’ll be here to support you.
Naser Dashti is a fourth-year sociology major. He can be reached at email@example.com