These 9 College Students Want To Tell You About Their Mental Illnesses

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We applaud people who talk about their struggles with bodily injury or illness like amputations or cancer. But surviving mental illness is rarely celebrated. Even though mental illnesses like depression and anxiety are incredibly common, they carry a stigma that prevents many people from seeking treatment. So these students deserve a standing ovation for coming out of the shadows to tell the story of their journeys.

Don't give in to stigma. If you dig this video, share it so more people with mental illness can leave shame behind.

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Hi. I'm Lucy.

I'm Claire.

Hi. My name is Katie.

My name's Harriet.

I'm Ogari [SP].

My name is Zoltan.

I'm Robyn Brockie.

My name's Amy.

Hi. My name is Christian.

And in 2008, I was diagnosed with severe depression.

OCD.

Depression and anorexia.

Depression.

Generalized anxiety disorder.

Depression.

Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Depression, anxiety.

Severe depression.

I think I realized that I had OCD from a very young age. I think I was about 14 years old, but I only actually got help when it started interfering with my life.

I had an Asperger Syndrome diagnosis while I was very young, when I was in primary school. So, that's something I've always known to be a root of the depression that I've had.

Just before I came to university in 2008, I actually took an overdose and that was the first time my friends had really seen me vulnerable and I think that was the point at which I ended up in hospital. I think that was the point at which I really realized there was something actually wrong.

I thought, "I'm going off to university in two weeks. This is supposed to be the best time of my life," and I just couldn't understand what was happening, which was the scariest part of it all, really.

I didn't need a reason to live before but I suddenly felt like I needed one, and at that time I couldn't find it.

I essentially stopped eating. I ate as little as I could get away with, as little as my parents would let me, in essence. I was very grumpy and I cried a lot.

I don't want to leave the house. I can't cope around people I don't know.

Sometimes I felt these really extreme kind of feelings of, like, despair and desperation, just not knowing what to do. And then there were other times where I just felt absolute numbness, I just felt nothing. I felt like I didn't exist.

That feeling of weight and feeling horrible but having, like, the most manic energy aqnd that's really difficult, because you've got so much energy to put into hating yourself.

I was constantly worried and my hands started getting really raw because I constantly had to wash my hands and I couldn't help it and my friends started to realize it and they would try and sit me down, and it would be like, "OK, stop washing your hands." But then I would sneak out of my room like at 1:00 o'clock in the morning when they're all asleep, just to wash my hands, just to get rid of that intrusive thought.

Emotionally, you are constantly on edge and you don't really feel anything other than fear constantly.

I don't think people realize it at the time, the physical symptoms that come with something like depression, where actually you just feel physically, totally drained.

I couldn't move to walk across my room, which is about 5 foot long, to get a drink of water. It was physically impossible. I just couldn't do it, even if I was desperate for it.

It doesn't just affect your mood, depression also warps your thoughts and your perceptions.

I get into this sort of state of self loathing, so that I'm sort of mentally poaching myself and thinking, "Zoltan, why aren't you better at life? Why are you such a terrible person?"

I just did not want to live. I think I described it as, "I don't actually want to kill myself. I just don't want to have to feel this anymore and that's the only way I can do it, suicide is the only way out."

If I had to liken it to anything else outside of mental illness, probably something like the worst heartbreak you could ever imagine but all the time and without reason.

Well, I didn't have any friends. I didn't have any functional relationships. I didn't have university. I wasn't a member of any societies and that kind of cycle just meant that I was kind of increasingly becoming disconnected from the rest of the world.

I only really talked to people in lectures, and so on and that was only a little bit, because I was so terrified of them realizing.

I didn't eat. You don't keep up with showering and making sure you have clean clothes, let alone going into Union [SP], remembering that the reason you're here is because you actually really want a degree.

I couldn't get my work done on time and I couldn't face coming into university. I couldn't face going to lectures. I struggled in my relationships at home. I nearly split up with my partner.

I found it very difficult to start and maintain relationships and friendships with people, because the negative thoughts that came with depression kind of gave me the feeling that I was inflicting myself on other people.

There was nothing in me that could remind me of the things that made me happy. I completely forgot what it was that got me out of bed in the morning or led me to keep on going.

You feel like you have absolutely no strength left but there always seems to be resources of it. It's really strange. It's like wherever it's kept, you just find them. You just need to find them, and for me it was running that helped me to locate where the extra strength was.

The diagnosis was very helpful in confirming to myself that, really, it's something I've got to get on with, rather than something that should just enable me to give up on life because I'm just no good at it.

Maybe it's just the thing that just happens to people, like diabetes, or something, just some people have it.

It's very fashionable to be down on anti-depressants. Just like chemicals, they don't work but for me, they saved my life.

I really needed something practical to help me kind of plan my life, because I wasn't very good at just sitting down and functioning as a normal human being.

I started focusing on a routine and making sure I slept enough, making sure I ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and the right kind of vitamins and recognizing when I was starting to fall down again and telling somebody.

The more self-aware you become, I think the more you can understand what's going on. That doesn't mean you can stop it, but it does mean that you sort of know how to look out for yourself a bit better.

I've educated myself on my own condition and other conditions, ways of treating and managing mental health problems.

So, I joined a society and I completely threw myself into it and that really helped the social isolation and gave me something to really look forward to.

I started meeting lots of people who had been through similar situations and I realized that maybe the antidepressants and all of the kind of medical treatment wasn't necessarily going to work for me. What really worked for me was talking to these people and finding out how they managed their symptoms.

I know a lot about myself now and I know I do really quirky things, but it's just kind of like getting to the point where you feel comfortable enough being like, "It is a part of me, but I'm not going to let it control me."

I was so determined to not let it beat me that actually I felt that I tried quite a lot harder in other aspects of my life.

And I would simply be a totally different person if I didn't have the mental issues that I do.

I've had so much support in the last two years and what's amazing is that, literally every tutor or member of any kind of staff has always tried their best just to help.

I'm still alive. I survived all this stuff and I think I could handle quite a lot.

The biggest thing to advise anybody who's struggling is go and ask for help, and tell your friend.

If you can find people that you can just talk to, it makes it so much easier and you are definitely not alone. And I know that sounds really cliche, but you're not.

Even if you think there's no one else in the world that cares, there will always be someone, and there will always be someone that will be devastated if you're not here.

It's surprising. There are a lot more people out there with depression and mental health problems than you realize and just nobody talks about it, and keep it a secret.

It's very helpful to find whatever outlet you might have for expressing yourself and exploring that.

A lot of people aren't very informed and think that counseling is going to fix all for everything but there are alternative therapies out there and if it's not helping you, then really, definitely look into what else there is available.

Finding ways to feel safe is a really important one, not expecting too much of yourself.

Don't forget the achievement that it is when you do get up and you do go out, even if you go for a five minute walk, that's a goal. Don't think of the big picture at the start but just think of those little goals that you can meet every day that will make you feel good about yourself because they're just as important as the big one.

There isn't really such a thing as always being good at dealing with the things life throws at you and you just have to take it at your own pace, and work with whatever your problems might be, and you will get there eventually.

There may be small errors in this transcript.
About:

This fantastic video was created by Leeds University Union in the UK features members of its peer support student group, Mind Matters. It's directed and produced by Harriet Rankin and filmed by Ollie Jenkins.

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