by Kaitlin Gladney
If you knew one in four of your peers suffered from some form of a particular illness—an illness that, when left untreated, can make everyday life an overwhelming challenge and even result in death—what would you do? How would you feel if people wrote this illness off as a sign of weakness or were uncomfortable discussing it?
This situation is reality. Right here, right now. One in four college students suffer from some form of a diagnosable mental illness. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among American college students, and the third-leading cause of death among young adults. Despite the fact that colleges and universities provide a range of free services to assist students struggling with mental health issues, many will not seek treatment—up to 2/3 of those struggling never seek the help they need.
Our community should be able to discuss these things that affect so many people, yet often remain relegated to the realm of silence. To Write Love on Her Arms is a national nonprofit movement that exists to provide hope and help to people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide, as well as to invest in treatment and recovery. As a University Chapter, TWLOHA – Duke University serves as part of a nationwide network of organizations on college campuses determined to spread the mission and vision of TWLOHA. Through organized meetings and events, each chapter serves as a voice of hope, inspiration, and support for students and their surrounding communities.
Sometimes we hear that strength is never having weakness or never showing weakness. I don’t think that’s true. I think strength is moving through weakness, and having the courage to ask for help when it’s needed. Struggle is a normal and acceptable part of life. It’s okay not to be okay all of the time. We all need other people, and that’s fine. We live in a difficult and broken world, and while we can’t always choose what happens to us, we can choose how to respond to it. We can choose honesty and vulnerability and community. We can love ourselves enough to get the help we need.
Pain is real, but hope and help are very real things too. You are not alone, and your story matters very much.