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Panel discusses depression

Kristen Rice | Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In continuation of the College’s “Support a Belle, Love a Belle” Week, a group of Saint Mary’s students shared their personal experiences with depression and anxiety in a panel discussion Tuesday in the Student Center Lounge.

Freshman Victoria Otteson opened the discussion by recounting her battle with depression and anxiety to event attendees.

“I made poor choices in my life and I made depression and anxiety define me,” she said.

Though people deal with the challenges of their lives in different ways, Otteson said her struggle with depression and anxiety negatively impacted her ability to cope with specific situations.

“One person’s way may be different from mine. … Life sometimes throws you things that you think you cannot survive,” Otteson said. “You can choose to fight [depression] with all you’ve got, or you can let it win.”  

Sophomore Molly Smith shared her personal experiences with the audience.

“As a kid I was very normal,” she said. “Then I started bottling up my feelings and my mood began to decline. … I completely shut down.”

Despite the challenges depression presented her, Smith said recovery is an achievable goal.

“[Mental illness] can be a lifelong battle. … But no matter how impossible it seems, it’s completely possible to recover,” she said.  “It takes patience and time.”

Contrary to widespread public perceptions of mental illness, freshman Rebecca Jenkins said mental illness can affect anyone.

“People think that mental illness is something unstable people bring upon themselves, but it does not discriminate,” she said.  

As a result, Jenkins said people who suffer from mental illness should muster the courage to seek help instead of struggling alone.

“My fellow Belles, don’t be afraid to speak up. There is nothing wrong with looking to others for help. … We’re all here for you,” she said. “Sometimes you just need someone to talk to, and that’s okay.”

Junior Allie Richthammer said support systems are crucial for those fighting mental illness.

 “There are always people who can make you brave,” she said. “You do not have to go at it alone.”

The panelists also encouraged audience members to support friends and family members who suffer from any type of mental illness by discussing their personal sources of love and support, including family, friends and teachers.

Above all, the panelists stressed mental illness should never stop people from reaching their potential or attaining happiness.

“Your life is worth way more than you know, and you deserve to live life to the fullest,” Jenkins said.