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Thursday, February 2, 2023
ContributorOpinion & Testimonials: Student Stories on Mental Illness 

Opinion & Testimonials: Student Stories on Mental Illness 

As the world keeps changing, humans are forced to adapt to new cultures and experiences that may not have been a problem earlier in history. Every human has a different life, based on an infinite amount of circumstances, but how different can life be from generation to generation? Do you want your children to live the same lifestyle, work in the same profession, and pursue the same level of education as you? Or could it be possible that you and your parents or children have different lives?

A catastrophic human problem, blatantly present in Milpitas, is our inability to accept new ideas and empathize with others. It is hard to stay human in a world focused on the pursuit of monetary assets, forever keeping us busy in our day-to-day lives. But stop — take a look at the people around you. Look at the toddlers, the students, the teachers, the elderly, the homeless, the rich, the people who are always in a hurry, the patronizers, the shy. How are they? What are they hiding? 

Out of the 75,000+ residents in Milpitas*, let’s just take a look at the 10,000+ students* in the Milpitas Unified School District. I took the time to interview a couple students, to ask them to share their problems. Turns out, there are a lot of students who face issues with their mental health, which is defined by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services as our “emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” These students, 18 years old at most, the youth and future leaders of America, have experienced mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Let’s take a look at their stories:

“Without a doubt yes, I have suffered from both depression and anxiety numerous times. It affects me in all sorts of ways but for the most part it disconnects me from who I am and prevents me from being true to myself. I haven’t told anyone about how deep down it actually goes but I have talked to people about certain situations and how I feel. I think we all have felt these awful feelings, but we bury it deep since mental health still isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. We just try to move past these things and hope they work themselves out. To anyone reading this, just know that you’re not alone and although this journey might be arduous all that matters is that you’re trying to be better.” -Rishi Donapati, grade 11*

Just one student, brave enough to share his name. An anomaly who must have had unfortunate circumstances, unlike your family and friends. Right?

“I have struggled with mental illness for a large part of my adolescence. I chose to treat them the wrong way. My relationships began to deteriorate and before I knew it, I was in a worse situation than I started in. I talked to friends, family, therapist; I tried getting an analysis from every point of view and everything pointed to a change of my lifestyle. I didn’t make this change and instead this lead me to a loss of a significant lover, an attempted suicide, and seeking solace. Feeling like there was nowhere to go, I began painting, writing, making music; just trying to express this deep alienation and isolation however I could. Bleeding your heart into someone or something is the most liberating feeling, although it may not instantly fix or solve what pains you may feel. Suffering in a wallow state feels like the only thing you can do since a crippling depression won’t make you want to do anything else, but once you get the boost of motivation/serotonin, do what benefits you the most.” -Anonymous, grade 12*

I wonder why he/she chose to remain anonymous? Why would he/she be scared or uncomfortable to reveal his/her name?

“I’ve had my fair share of extreme lows. Coming close to life-threatening decisions on multiple occasions, I’m no stranger to the long months of recovery and tear-stained pillows. When my loving mom found out, the hardest part was knowing she couldn’t fathom why I would think such things. I speak openly about my struggles to those who inquire and I’ve sought professional help. Often I wonder what my final sentiments would be, and to that I’d say: having empathy is a vital key to establishing relationships and as a community it’s imperative we show one another kindness. If you don’t understand certain struggles, research—watch videos, read articles, be a patient listener, do your part in being a safe resource for someone to turn to.” -Valerie Lam, grade 11*

Wait — this student mentioned her mother, who had a hard time understanding the idea around the reality of mental illnesses. Didn’t the first student mention something about mental illnesses not being taken seriously by society, too?

“Yes I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety in the past, and I suppose the present as well because I feel that something like that can never completely go away. A negative impact [it] definitely had on was my grades and probably my social skills. It was hard to find any motivation to do anything I needed to and it was really hard to trust people. Doing the simplest things could become terrifying. I could originally talk to people about problems I was facing but after awhile I was tired of burdening them with problems I had to deal with. So it was something I ended up having to deal with myself, just so I wouldn’t have to hurt others by showing them how much I was hurting. I think one thing I’d like to share is just to hang in there. It gets better; you just really have to hold on to yourself and I promise it will get at least a little bit better.” -Anonymous, grade 11*

Wow. This seems like a serious problem. Why are the students keeping these problems to themselves? What does it say about society, if we are teaching our kids to not mention any negative emotions they may be feeling, and make them feel as if they should not reveal any problems they may have?

“I do know for sure that there have been times where I’ve felt lost and completely defeated, no joy in anything whatsoever. And during those times, it’s really hard for me to come to terms with myself and tell myself that it’s okay to be feeling that way, to want to reach out for help. It may take as little as a few days or as long as a few months, but during that time span I find myself unmotivated to do anything, even if it’s something that I love doing. My life becomes dull and I find no happiness doing what I love. If I wanted to share one thing with others, it’d be that it is okay to feel the way that you feel, do not be ashamed of it. Find the best coping mechanism for you and don’t be afraid to use it.” -Jenny Ho, grade 11*

The truth is there is a stigma around the entire idea of mental illnesses. According to the rules of our society, as shown by the responses of our students, it is shameful to have a problem related to mental health. And unfortunately, most of the stigma is enforced by the parents, the adults of Milpitas. You’ve read the voices of the students, you know the challenges our youth face. Still, many people refuse to acknowledge that these problems exist. What does this say about the society we live in? 

What are you going to do to change it?

Photo by Jacob Hannigan

National suicide hotline number: 1-800-273-8255

*as of the 2018-2019 school year



  1. —–The truth is there is a stigma around the entire idea of mental illnesses.

    Whose truth is that? Where did you learn it as a truth?

    The truth is there are people who direct that prejudice.

    The truth is we have yielded them far too much power.

    What does that say about us?

    Harold A Maio

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