Student organization holds event on ending mental-health stigmas

By Rachel Matuszewski | 4/2/18 12:09am

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GVL / Hannah Zajac Kaitlyn Mueller speaks to the crowd during the Breaking Down Walls talk on Thursday March 29, 2018.

Grand Valley State University’s club To Write Love on Her Arms, which doubles as a nonprofit organization, held a "Breaking Down Walls" event to discuss the stigmas surrounding mental illness. 

On Thursday, March 29, GVSU students revealed their personal accounts about their struggles with depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, addiction, self-harm and suicide. Though their experiences are unlike those of anyone else struggling with the same illness, each orbited around the theme that their recovery was non-linear and the stigmas associated with these illnesses are false. 

GVSU student Kaitlyn Mueller shared her experience of suppressing the existence of her depression as she refused the concern of doctors, family members and her favorite high school teacher. Depression affects the lives of 6.7 percent of American adults each year. This means about 16 million people struggle with depression’s symptoms of empty mood, change in sleep patterns and loss of pleasure in usual activities, yet everyone experiences it differently. 

“I think the most important thing I’ve learned is depression doesn’t have to ruin your life," Mueller said. “It’s a part of your life, but it doesn’t have to control it. You’re not alone if you struggle, but there is life beyond (depression’s symptoms).” 

Ashleigh Kerby, also a GVSU student, spoke of the importance of being there for those who need support. 

“No one is truly alone," Kerby said. "Keep taking it day by day, get the help you need, support your loved ones and be there for them.”

Charlotte Deimel spoke of her own experiences as well. She detailed her battles but maintains the belief that recovery is possible for those struggling.

“I know firsthand how non-linear the process of recovery is," Deimel said. “But I still have hope that myself and anyone else struggling can eventually live a better life.” 

To Write Love on Her Arms invites students to take advantage of the University Counseling Center and also invites students to join the organization's meetings every Tuesday at 9 p.m. in Au Sable Hall, Room 1117. 

“This organization has helped me because it brings me with a group of people who think similarly about mental illness,” Deimel said. “There needs to be less of a stigma. It’s a really open place to take about it. We do (lots) of fun things, (along) with activities related to mental health. It’s a good group to be a part of.” 

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