I met Cristian when we both were working in a county-partnered agency. We took our jobs seriously and had an impact on an array of students. We have seen how mental health can affect students and how recovery is possible for them. Here is her interview:
First off, what is your experience with mental health?
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 16. It was a very difficult time in my teens, and I felt very misunderstood. It was worse when I was labeled as “crazy” my senior year of high school because of my depression. I felt bullied and humiliated. I isolated myself and lost interest in everything. I was struggling with depression from 16-19 years old. When I was 19 I decided it was time to change, so I began to heal myself by going to school and doing art. I was up and down with depression until 2019, when I was having very bad episodes and I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have been prescribed medication and I have been doing therapy. So far it has been working and most of the time I feel pretty good. It is a never ending battle but I am more aware of my symptoms now and I’m not ashamed of seeking help. I also have a great circle of support, which helps reduce some of the loneliness I sometimes feel.
How do you use your life experience to help others?
I like to share my experience with others so they know they are not the only ones. Often times with mental health, there is a stigma that there is something very wrong with us if we are diagnosed with one. Even though we are more educated about mental health, there is still a lot of criticism, bullying and harassment to people who have one. So In order to avoid that, they stay quiet and suffer in silence. I like to share my story with others, specially people of color, so they know mental health is nothing to be ashamed of and hopefully they can begin their own journey to recovery.
How did working in the mental health field impact you?
Working in the mental health field is very impactful because you realize how mental health is so complex. There are many factors that contribute to mental health, and often times it is so difficult to navigate. However, as frustrating as it can be, I think one of the most rewarding experiences of working in the mental health field is when you start to build meaningful connections with the people you work with.
What is something people should know about mental health?
People should know that there is nothing wrong with them if they have being diagnosed. There is hope and there is recovery. The journey is not easy, but it is achievable. Unfortunately, there is no specific way “to recovery,” each journey is different, and it might take several tries before one can finally reach a point where they feel their journey is done. It takes a lot of baby steps, courage, work, determination, and self love, but the journey to recovery is one of the most beautiful and amazing experiences one can go through.
How do you think culture impacts mental health?
Culture can be very negative on our views about depression. Until recently, the portrayal of mental health in our culture was very negative. There have been more campaigns to talk about mental health and to try to normalize it, but I feel we still need to do more in our society to fully accept mental health as something that is not “crazy.”
For those who are struggling with their mental health, what is something you would like to tell them?
There is hope. There is recovery. It might not be easy, but this is not forever.
How should one ask for help?
I think first, you need to ask yourself for help. If you are aware you need help, then it will be easier to ask somebody else. Then, depending on your situation, I would call a hotline if you are in a crisis. But if not, then approach your doctor and start the conversation. Ask for therapy. If medication is something you are open to, then ask for that too. Also look for people who care for you. It is important to have a good circle of support. Allow yourself to heal. Allow others to help you. It will be so much easier if you have a team than if you are alone.