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Column: Mental health is essential — don't be afraid to ask for help

Mental Health Awareness is something that a lot of people shy away from in fear of being seen as weak. 

However, it is important to bring attention to mental illness and remove the stigma around talking about it. 

"One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide," World Health Organization (WHO) reported.

Mental illnesses are just like any other disease —unrecognizable and serious, but also very treatable. 

As someone who has personally struggled with my mental health, I know firsthand how scary it can be. I also know how much progress can result from speaking about it. I have anxiety depression disorder and it has greatly affected me throughout my life. 

As I've grown older, I have often become overwhelmed with feelings of worry and insecurity. At times, I had regular panic and anxiety attacks. I was afraid to talk about it because I thought people wouldn't understand.

When I understood my symptoms, I was afraid to tell anyone. Mental health isn't something that society talks about very often, and it's something that my family talked about even less. 

Last year, I had come to the point in my life where I knew I either had to make a personal change or continue suffering in silence. That was when I started talking to a counselor on campus. That helped me work through my personal feelings and thoughts. When summer came, and I went for a regular check-up with my doctor, I had the courage to speak up. I had been communicating with a professional about the importance of help and action, and I decided to take those steps. 

I've made a lot of progress. It started out slow, but I no longer have a panic attack every week, or an anxiety attack every morning. I still have dark days, but that is a part of my life. Now that I've started working to manage my mental health, I feel like more of a person. 

It's important, especially as a college student to speak up about mental health concerns. "Anxiety is the top presenting concern among college students (41.6 percent), followed by depression (36.4 percent) and relationship problems (35.8 percent)," according to The American Psychological Association.

When I talked to my doctor,  I remember that she said, "People will tell you to just be happier, but it's not that easy, you can't just be happy because you tell yourself to". That really resonated with me.

I constantly told myself to just be "normal" and happy. I thought that because I had a relatively easy and good life, I couldn't have mental problems, but that couldn't be farther from the truth.

No matter what you have, who you know, or where you come from, you can be affected by mental illness. 

In fact, as a college student we are more vulnerable to these conditions. The suicide rate among young adults, ages 15 to 24, tripled since the 1950s and suicide is the second most common cause of death among college students, according to The College Degree Search.

I hope that by sharing my story, I can help to encourage others who are struggling to find help. I understand what it's like to feel completely alone, but you are not alone. Everyone has struggles, but there are people who can help. It's up to you to reach out to them.

There is the campus counseling center, and organizations such as IDONTMIND or Mind Charity for better mental health. 

Don't be afraid to reach out. 

It could change your life.