As described in an earlier blog, I experienced my first depressive break my freshman year at the University of Notre Dame. On September 30th, I’ll be speaking at the ND-NAMI’s Project Hope Suicide Prevention Walk. Considering that suicide is the second highest cause of death among college students, I jumped at the chance to share my thoughts on how suicide and depression might be avoided. My hope is these students will understand that mental health is important for all of us, not just those of us tagged with a predisposition for mental illness.
Mental illness, like many diseases is prime example of “what comes first?” Does genetics cause mental illness or does the environment breed it? I always answer “both” to this question. Perhaps more important than the actual environment is how we react to the environment. We all have seen one person devastated by failure or disappointment, while another person uses failure as training wheels for success. As Charles Darwin said: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is that one that is the most adaptable to change."
When I arrived as a freshman at Notre Dame, I was frightened I might flunk out or gain 15 pounds. Depression or mental illness didn’t blip on my radar of concerns. Knowing myself now, over 30 years later, I think I could have lessened or even avoided my depressive downfall. So here’s my list of the top ten things I could have done to preserve my mental and physical health. This list won’t work for everyone, but perhaps it will inspire a college freshman to create a wellness list of his or her own.
Maybe with a little luck, some college freshman can leverage my experience into his or her own list for wellness. I hope so. I had 2.5 phenomenal years at the University of Notre Dame. For the other 1.5 years, I was okay to miserable. If I had understood myself better then, my depressive episode could have been shorter and less severe. Hopefully this information will help others maximize their college experience.
For more information about Julie K Hersh check out her Struck by Living website
Register for the ND-NAMI’s Project Hope Suicide Prevention Walk here.