What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
Upon my arrival in America, I was greeted by the frigid embrace of winter, presenting a significant challenge for me as a track athlete. The absence of transportation and friends compounded my difficulties, requiring a rapid outdoor running adjustment. During weekends, when not engaged in competition, I often found myself alone in my apartment, a mile from the nearest grocery store and other essential amenities. I was compelled to traverse the streets day and night on foot. In the absence of classes, isolation became my constant companion, and I began to experience the weight of depression as I grappled with the resettlement process in a foreign land.
Life became an arduous journey, and in my struggle to cope with the stress and solitude, I turned to overeating, which detrimentally affected my performance as a college athlete. My depression was further exacerbated by a multitude of stressors, including adapting to a new language, the demands of academics, economic challenges, unfamiliar food, and divergent religious practices.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
I joined a support group for international students and athletes, providing a sense of community and a space to share your experiences and feelings with others who may be going through similar challenges. I was also paired with a host family, which made everything better. I also kept an open line of communication with my track coach and professors, explaining my challenges and seeking their support or accommodations if needed. I was reminded that addressing these challenges may be an ongoing process, and reaching out for help and support is essential when needed.
Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?
One of the most damaging aspects of the current system is the stigma associated with mental health issues. People often hesitate to seek help due to fear of judgment. Promoting awareness and acceptance of mental health conditions can help reduce this stigma. Public education campaigns and open conversations about mental health can contribute to this effort.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
Many people who struggle with mental health or have suicidal thoughts often suffer in silence due to stigma, fear, or shame. It’s crucial for everyone to recognize that talking openly about mental health challenges is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and courage. Encouraging individuals to share their feelings and experiences without judgment can create a supportive environment where they feel heard and understood.