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Saint Mary’s student discusses mental illness at Justice Friday

| Monday, January 30, 2017

Senior Julianne Olivieri shared her story of her battle with mental illness on Friday as part of the Justice Friday series at Saint Mary’s.

Oliveri began her presentation with a recollection of her time abroad and her struggle with depression while across the sea from her family, in Rome. Oliveri said she felt like she was expected to enjoy her time abroad, but her mental illness was getting the better of her, and it caused her to miss out on trips and events.

“When in Rome, I still have depression,” Olivieri said.

Olivieri said she wasn’t provided with the resources she needed from the school.

Olivieri said had been admitted into a psychiatric hospital for her depression, and it was strange to be going through treatment with all the other patients.

“It was like we were all part of a club we didn’t sign up for,” she said.

Olivieri said she found comfort in a girl she met in the hospital. The other girl became a close friend to Olivieri as they went through their similar struggles together.

“I met a girl in the psych ward like me,” she said. “It was a sign from God that I’m not alone.”

She said they still talk and that she is happy to have someone to talk to who understands her struggles with her mental illness. Olivieri said that her journey and her time in the psych ward he changed the way she sees the world.

“[My journey] has allowed me to understand others in my own way,” Olivieri said.

Olivieri said her past has inspired her to advocate for others going through mental health issues and other disabilities.

“I developed a passion for disabilities awareness,” Olivieri said. “Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.”

At Saint Mary’s, Olivieri has joined clubs and organizations dedicated to advocate for people with eating disorders, depression and other mental illness.

“I recognize the need to take action on campus,” Olivieri said. “Even if I can help one person, that’s one person I can help.”

Olivieri is chair of the psychology club at Notre Dame. She said that her experiences have lead her towards her interest in psychology. She said that she will continue to take part in activities and clubs that give her a purpose.

Olivieri said that when suffering with any kind of mental illness, it is most important to surround yourself with the right people.

“Create an environment that builds you up, not tears you down,” Olivieri said. “[You] cannot change people who speak negative. Surround yourself with people who bring you up.”

Olivieri said mental illness is never easy to talk about, but it is important to talk about it and to remember there is hope.

“If it was easy, we wouldn’t need conversation like this,” she said. “I found my voice. You are so worthy of help and love.”

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