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SMC students hold panel on mental illness

| Tuesday, September 8, 2015

On Monday night, Saint Mary’s students participated in a panel discussion on mental health awareness as part of the Support a Belle, Love a Belle initiative. 

Junior Jenna Wozniak, co-chair of the Student Government Association’s social concerns committee, said the student panel is an important tradition that fosters unity among Saint Mary’s students.

“It’s important for student to hear from other students,” Wozniak said. “In the long run we all go through similar experiences and relate to one another, that’s how we can grow as a community and with each other.”

At the panel, junior Miranda Gall spoke about her struggle with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and PTSD. She said it has been a difficult journey, and she is still not past her struggles, but Saint Mary’s has helped with her mental illness.

“I’ve always suffered with depression, but it got really bad freshman year when I decided to overdose on my anxiety medication after a bad experience with a roommate,” Gall said. “I was out cold for four days and no one noticed.”  

Gall said she goes to the Women’s Health Center every week and has become very close with the nurses who have helped her along the way.

“I thought my struggle was over, but about a month ago I attempted suicide again,” Gall said. “It was difficult seeing my parents so upset, and now that I am back at school, I constantly fear relapse. .… It is something I still struggle with today.”

Junior Erica Lopez also spoke about her struggle with depression, anxiety and OCD. She said that she has always been shy and college prompted a huge adjustment for her.

“I didn’t want to be in the community of mental illnesses, but eventually I became suicidal,” Lopez said. “I got diagnosed with depression, anxiety and a little bit of OCD, but it really helped to take medication and talk openly with my parents.”

Lopez said that being at Saint Mary’s has helped her realize she isn’t alone in her struggle.

“Saint Mary’s has shown me that involvement and getting to know people really helps,” Lopez said. “There are many others experiencing these things and I have comfort in knowing that no one is alone in this, you’re never by yourself.”  

Senior Torie Otteson spoke about her struggle with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD. She said that she has come a long way and conquered many of her battles, but the battle with mental illness will always be a continuous force in her life.

“Mental illness never really goes away; you have moments of clarity but also movements back down,” Otteson said. “The ultimate goal is to get to the post-recovery phase, but some of my biggest challenges have been in this phase.”

Otteson said whether in the post-recovery phase, newly diagnosed or anywhere in between, everyone suffering from mental illness deserves the same help, love, respect and care.  

“One of the most important things I’ve learned during the post recovery phase is to be self aware,” she said. “Every day I have to decide to look at myself with love or hate, but I know that every time I make a positive choice, I am fighting for myself.”

“I encourage everyone to take control and fight every day to appreciate the life you’ve been given,” Otteson said. “Finally, no matter who you are or where you are, know that you are worth the fight. .… You have a life to live no matter where you are in it, so get going.”

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About Alaina Anderson

Alaina is a Junior at Saint Mary's College and is studying English Writing and Communication Studies. From the warm and exotic state of Wisconsin, she is a professional shower singer, an ambassador for The Elephant Pants, and an avid lover of alliteration.

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