The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday May 28th

Take it from me, don't forsake your own mental well-being

Last year, I got stuck in a rut. I'm still not exactly sure why, but it royally - emphasis on royally - sucked.

I lost interest in everything I enjoyed, half-heartedly completed class assignments and gave almost everyone in every capacity of my life the shaft.

Every day, critical questions spun through my head like a cassette tape stuck on fast-forward.

"What's your problem?"

"Why don't you just snap out of it?"

"What do you have to feel sorry about?"

I couldn't think of anything.

With the exception of my grandparents, I had never lost a family member. My parents weren't divorced. No one I was close to was sick. I was financially secure. I could run the 40 in 4.6, and I had good skills with a bow-staff. Logic did not dictate a satisfying reason.

What the hell was my problem?

Luckily, and maybe ironically, my father is a psychiatrist and my mother is a psychiatric nurse. Until that semester, the only benefit I'd garnered from my dad's profession was an enormous amount of free pharmaceutical company-sponsored office supplies. This has made lending pens a very awkward experience.

Around that time in the semester, I chose mental health as the subject for a class project. I found that an astounding number of people, the highest concentration being college students, felt poor about themselves and life in general.

Thousands of students regularly used self-mutilation as a means of stress relief. Suicide numbers were shocking.

But most of them weren't getting any kind of help.

Why? Because society has branded mental health with a ridiculous, faulty stigma: It's for the weak. You got problems? You're being dramatic. Help? It's not necessary.

No.

It is necessary. Unbelievably necessary. More necessary than most people realize.

My mom said it best when she told me, "Everyone has a right to feel good."

It's true. If, for whatever reason, you feel sad or anxious or just bad in general, you have a right to feel better. Fault isn't a factor. Many times it's as simple as a chemical imbalance in your brain. It's not something you should just get over, because you can't.

It's not easy. I felt the same way, and I relate my personal experience in the hope that people understand that I've felt the same way, but that it's not something to be ashamed of.

And if you think it is, you'll have to try hard to embarrass yourself more than I am right now. It pains me to know that many people, friends included, suffer so much and do nothing about it.

Ideally, your mental health would be viewed just as objectively, if not more so, than your bodily health. You can survive without a limb - without your brain, you're nothing.

Are you ashamed of your high blood pressure? I doubt it. Do you just get over a broken leg? I hope not. Can you unthink depression? No.

And yet, the amount of attention given to your body and basically everything else is seriously disproportionate to the amount of time most people give their heads.

As a whole, UNC students are probably among the most bodily health-conscious group of individuals in the United States.

Every time I walk through campus, I narrowly avoid being trampled by a throng of joggers. The Student Recreation Center and the classes it offers are regularly packed. The demand for treadmills is so high that I've known people to sign up for a 3 p.m. spot at 7 a.m.

When I took Psychology 10, my professor, Robert Lawson, had a brilliant idea. What if everyone visited some type of mental health professional as often as they visited a general practitioner for a routine physical? Just a simple check on how you felt about life, even if you felt so fantastic and confident that people regularly described you as "full of piss and vinegar."

I'm not suggesting that everyone start popping pills and walk around in a lithium haze like the guy in "Garden State." There are many drawbacks to medication.

What I am suggesting is that people pay more attention to their mental health. The University provides an extensive support network of therapists and psychiatrists - and if you are feeling depressed for an extended period of time, please, please, please seek some kind of help.

Feeling good isn't a luxury. You deserve it.

Contact Jonathan Yeomans

at yeomans@email.unc.edu.

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