Ashley: Hi, I’m Ashley. I’m a senior from Long Beach, California, majoring in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience with a minor in law justice and social change. I joined Mentality Magazine as a freshman because of family struggles with mental health, and I wanted to have a greater knowledge of how to help my family and myself. I’m now the events and outreach coordinator of Mentality, so I primarily work with Mentality’s creative and business teams to plan outreach events, raise awareness on campus and in the outside community, and increase membership.
Liz: My name is Liz and I joined Mentality in my sophomore year when I was going through a rough patch with my mental health, and I wanted to seek out a community that understood what I was just going through and was just as passionate about advocating for more discussions about mental wellness. So from there, I became the events coordinator, which is Ashley’s current role, and I am now the editor-in-chief for my senior year. So, super excited to be able to work with all aspects of the magazine and get to know all of our members in a little bit more personal level than I might’ve otherwise, and really help push forward our mission.
Ashley: Through open discussions and honest writing, Mentality aims to destigmatize the conversations surrounding mental health, and it encourages students to realize that it is okay not to feel okay. So for example, for every meeting, we have each member go around and share his or her rose, thorn, and bud for that week. The rose is something that made you happy in your week, the thorn is something that made you sad, and the bud is something you’re looking forward to. And this practice shows our members that the upsides in life always come with the downsides and that’s totally fine. And Mentality also provides a community for members to relate with each other about their struggle and also inform others of what they’re experiencing. We believe that listening and learning through experiences is extremely important when discussing mental health issues.
Liz: Yeah. I just want to echo what Ashley just shared. Anything right now with a lot of different changes and things going on in our world, the pandemic, doing school completely virtual, it’s an election year, we know that puts a lot more stress on everyone. So unfortunately, a lot more people are beginning to experience mental health struggles. And while we’re not happy that that is the case, we’re definitely excited that mental health has been taking a little bit more of a forefront in conversations, and really letting us continue to advocate for the destigmatization of mental health and finding those practices, people, and resources that really allow someone to prioritize and maintain their mental wellness.
Ashley: A major challenge I’ve encountered in advocating for mental health is society today tends to focus on more salient issues, such as natural disasters or political disputes or economic downturns. And often doesn’t like to talk about the more vulnerable issues such as mental health. And that’s both disappointing and frustrating for the mental health community. Another significant challenge I’ve encountered is that everyone’s mental health and wellbeing manifest in different forms. So there’s no one definitive solution to mental health issues. And that also means it’s very difficult to know your role in helping others with mental health issues, as there could be potentially life-threatening consequences. Although we are not trained professionals, Mentality advocates for the extreme importance of being able to recognize and help a student in distress. And although it’s not an easy process and it definitely takes time, having a better understanding of your mental health and your potential triggers could greatly help someone else in need.
Liz: Additionally, it’s hard sometimes to strike a balance between portraying the positive outlook we want everyone to know exists for their mental wellness, that things can get better, that there is practices, therapists, medication, and communities in place to help support you on your mental wellness journey, while also still authentically and honestly sharing the stories from our staff about their struggles with mental illness. And being able to share what that looks like in a very raw and non-censored sense without having it be completely negative or detrimental to others’ mental wellness. So for example, we have no boundaries with what we discuss, and that includes topics such as suicide. And mental illnesses are sometimes stigmatized as being quote unquote crazy, or people are psycho such as dissociative identity disorder, which is highly controversial. But we want to be a space where our writers can share anything that they’re experiencing and let others know that they’re not alone in their mental health journey either.
Ashley: So, by listening to others’ experiences in Mentality and being open and honest with myself, I found that I was better able to control my anxiety and stress by recognizing when I got into those mental states and doing something to calm me down, such as going for a walk or listening to music. And Mentality’s advocacy initiatives have made me more comfortable being uncomfortable. And what I mean by this is that through actively talking about issues that make most people kind of squirmish, I realized that discomfort and persistence is necessary to enact change.
Liz: I definitely want to echo the growth that Ashley is noting there. I know I personally have just benefited so much from becoming more comfortable in acknowledging my own feelings and my own discomfort and being able to accommodate that in my everyday life and speak about it openly to advocate for myself. In addition to my personal wellbeing, it has also just allowed me to learn a lot more about everyone’s different experiences and different options that are available for mental wellness. And through this, I’ve been really able to push my boundaries and engage in conversations and advocacy with friends who may be in need or in community where I might not have otherwise had the skills to do so. So I’ve been able to really grow and contribute more to the community as a whole.
Ashley: Personally, my biggest takeaway from my experience with Mentality is to always treat others with empathy and respect, as you never know what they’re going through. And also, I’ve learned that mental wellbeing is different for every individual. And one individual could find comfort in traveling, let’s say, while another individual could find comfort in binge watching Netflix, and that’s totally acceptable. For me, I found that taking a daily walk and trying different breathing strategies improves my mental health and makes each day much more bearable.
Liz: For me, it’s the notion that you can reach out for help and that there are people there who will support you and not see your bravery and stepping up and sharing that you’re not okay as courage and not as a weakness. Just because others aren’t talking about their mental health or their struggles with mental health, doesn’t mean that others aren’t experiencing the same fears and anxiety and feelings of depression amongst other mental illnesses that you are. And it’s okay to be vulnerable, and to be that first one that you know being vulnerable because there’s others out there who are just as willing to have these conversations and support you once you take that leap of faith.
Ashley: So, I definitely recommend joining Mentality. Mentality is a great community of people working towards an important cause of destigmatizing mental health. And you don’t need to be a member of Mentality to write pieces, but please check us out at mentalitymagazine.org.
Liz: My bit of advice is a little bit broader, but don’t be afraid to take risks, especially when it comes to joining new organizations. At Michigan I definitely want to plug Mentality because it’s very dear to my heart. But I took a risk in joining Mentality, not knowing anyone in the organization and it’s truly been one of the best choices of my college career. And then also, mental wellness isn’t a linear process. What works for you at one time, what works for someone else, might not work for you at a later point. And that’s okay, it’s a journey. Don’t let yourself get discouraged because you will get through tough times.