Semi-colon Project brings mental health awareness to campus

Mental illness effects everyone, whether directly or indirectly. Depression, PTSD, ADD and ADHD are just a common few that are widely known around America, but those who suffer from them often go untreated.

The numbers of those undergoing treatment for mental illness has dramatically increased in the last few years, even though awareness of these issues has not increased.

According to the Mental Illness Research Association, in 2015, approximately one in five adults experienced mental illness. But many of these people continue suffering because of the stigma associated with these types of illnesses.

The UMHB counseling center is trying to end that stigma around campus and encourages anyone who has thoughts of suicide or hurting themselves to come to their offices and talk to one of the available counselors.

Director of Counseling, Testing and Health servies, Nate Williams said “The reality of what it is in the rest of the nation can happen here. The same things that touch other places will touch us. Any small thing that we can do to try and raise awareness and then offer our services to prevent things like this from happening, that would be why we do it.”

After months of researching the Semi-colon Project, a worldwide brand that shares people’s stories, Willams decided that it was time for the campus to start something similar.

“The Semi-colon Project is mainly about suicide awareness… and the prevention of suicide. We learned about it, and we liked the emphasis it made. It’s an easy symbol, so when you see the semi-colon, you know what it’s about.”

Williams’ main goal is to let students struggling with mental illness know there are resources available on campus.

“There’s a real need to reach out on campus and to show people that we are here,” William’s said. “We want to reach out to those who are struggling with mental illness or just with another type of problem.”

Senior social work major Morgan Matous used to struggle with severe clinical depression. She said that it was hard for her to reach out at first because not a lot of people realize its severity.

“Depression is difficult to understand if you haven’t been depressed before, mainly because many people think you are just sad. [People would say] ‘maybe if you would just socialize more’ or ‘you have nothing to be sad for, you have a good life,’” Matous said. “For me, it was a feeling of hopelessness, shame, unworthiness and rage.”

She said that it was hard to get out of bed most days, and she slept anywhere from 12 to 18 hours a day. She contemplated suicide and even self-harmed so that she could feel something other than numbness.

Matous suffered for about five years and endured many months on two seperate occasions at residential treatment centers before she finally found the right medication to help her.

Another remedy that helped her was getting back into playing the piano.

“Piano was one of the only positive things I would do when I was depressed,” Matous said. “The piece I used to always play when I was feeling really depressed was Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. Mozart was my favorite composer, and there was one particular song I really excelled in, which was Fantasy in D Minor K397.”

She said the complexity of the songs allowed her time to focus on them and distracted her from her thoughts.

Matous is aware of the nationally known Semi-colon Project and even had a semi-colon tattooed on her wrist, a symbolic placement for her and many others who have struggled with depression.

It has been five years since Matous’ recovery, and she said that she was grateful for the opportunity to get the help that she needed because not many people get that far.

Her advice to students who are struggling is to not be afraid to talk to someone about it.

“You can’t do it on your own. I strongly advocate for therapy and medication,” Matous said. “It’s important to not be embarrassed or ashamed of your problem. Because it is a real problem, regardless of what people say. If I didn’t go to therapy and get help, my story would’ve ended. A lot of the time, people think no one cares. Show them you care.”

Author: Jordan Yarbrough

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