Alexa is an old colleague of mine. And worked at a sister agency. She has a detailed work experience in the mental health field and has shared her personal struggles with a mental health challenge to hundreds of students.
Here is her interview.
What is your experience with mental health challenges?
I’ve struggled with my mental health since I could remember. Definitely since middle school. I have anxiety, depression, PTSD, and I have Bipolar type 2. I have a lot of flashbacks and anxiety attacks, and I get “triggered” over things that I don’t even know. Like knocking or a sudden loud noise. I’m pretty composed, though. If you met me you wouldn’t know the gambit of all the crap I’ve gone through.
What is something a company should take into account when someone is struggling with their mental health?
Goodness… grace and understanding. Even in the MENTAL HEALTH field, I’ve had supervisors who expected more from me than I could give. It was ridiculous.
How can friends and loved ones handle the news of someone with a mental health challenge?
Know that it doesn’t change who your loved one is. It just changes how you can better help them through it.
What stigma have you faced?
Public stigma, and self-stigma. I struggle with both, honestly. When I was in high school I was suicidal and everyone knew and avoided me in the hallways like the plague. Sometimes my friends or partner will say something sort of hurtful without realizing it, not knowing it was stigmatizing. I struggle with how I accept myself, and I don’t allow myself the compassion I need. I get mad at myself for being “weak”, then I get mad at myself AGAIN for recognizing that I was stigmatizing myself. It’s a cycle I’m trying to break.
As someone who has worked with transitional aged students, what is something teachers and administrators should take into account?
TAY are going through A LOT. Be compassionate, be an advocate. Look for warning signs of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. Students are looking for a safe person to go to, even if they don’t say it.
What have been some coping skills that have benefited you?
Cross stitching, attending a weekly coping skills group, napping, playing with my dog, candlemaking, and just being compassionate to myself. I listen to podcasts to and from work/ school and that helps a lot too.
What is a key take away someone should take from your own experience?
Your greatest strength is that you are alive. Your blessing is your life. If you’ve tried to take your own life and failed–you’ve successfully failed. That is an accomplishment. Life is worth living, and you are not alone.