Stand Up To The Stigma: Mental Health

In today's world, mental illness represents the largest economic burden of any other health issue, costing roughly $2.5 trillion in the past couple years alone, a number projected to triple by 2030. Shockingly, 60 percent of people suffering from mental health issues do not receive any care, primarily because of lack of resources and health care. But there is another silent enemy of the mental health industry, the social stigma that seems to accompany these conditions. Research continually suggests that the public holds a generally negative perception of mental illness, which has led to hurtful and false stereotypes.

Because of this public perception, it seems a mental health "stigma" has run rampant amidst our society. People suffering from common mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, OCD, and bipolar disorder are put in a position of shame because of their supposed mental "shortcomings." Those who seek treatment and medication often keep their condition a well-guarded secret, while the remaining number of afflicted people will never seek help because of embarrassment and fear of judgement.

I'm here to tell you we need to make a change.

One in five Americans will suffer from a mental health related illness at some point in their life. Look around you. Your classmates, your coworkers, your friends, even your family. Do they "fit" the common stigma of what mental health sufferers should be like?

When I tell people that I have suffered from major depressive disorder for the majority of my life, they're shocked. The truth is, depression has no profile. It has no specific target. It can happen to absolutely anyone. At the beginning of my mental health treatment, I was slightly ashamed of myself. Most days getting out of bed was nearly impossible, and going outside and joining society was out of the question. I was inexplicably sad, all of the time, and covered in a shroud of self-pity and internalized hatred. Why was I unable to be like "normal" people? I quickly discovered I was not alone, and through the help of close friends and family, I found my footing and regained the confidence and tools to start living my life.

The thought of people, just like me, suffering in silence for fear of criticism is heartbreaking. Not only is it saddening, it's destructive. Each year, thousands of Americans die from untreated mental illnesses, the majority of these deaths being suicides. It is our jobs as humans, to support those who suffer from mental afflictions. There should be no shame associated with suffering from anxiety or depression, as it is quite simply out of our control.

Let's change the dialogue. Let's uplift others instead of casting them into the dark. If you suffer from a mental health related issue -- you are not alone. You are not less beautiful, less intelligent, or less of a person. You are strong, capable and worthy of love.

So how we do fix this issue? It all starts with spreading awareness and changing the way we talk about this topic. Sign the National Alliance on Mental Illness "Stigma Free" pledgeto join the movement.

"All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul." -- Robin Williams

Welcome To New York

Like most fashion obsessed girls, I am totally and irrevocably in love with New York City. Ever since my first visit at the tender age of eleven years old, I have been fascinated with it’s buzzing energy, creativity and seemingly endless fountain of possibilities. I made a promise to myself moments after stepping out of my first New York cab: I would live here someday. And it gives me incredible joy and pleasure to say I was right.

A little over 2 weeks ago, my mother and I (God bless her) drove twelve hours from Charlotte, North Carolina to the city of my dreams, Manhattan, New York. I had spent the entire summer and the vast majority of my highschool career dreaming about my future adventures in the city and now, it was all beginning.

Not only was I living in the city of my dreams, I was attending a school I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be apart of. LIM College, short for ‘The Laboratory Institute of Merchandising’ is a fashion business school  dedicated to teaching students marketing, merchandising, visual merchandising, and international business within the retail industry.

Long story short- I was finally starting my future. What no one told me (or what they did tell me and I I refused to listen to) was that living in the city is not as glamourous as Carrie Bradshaw depicted it to be. Add being a broke college student on top of the situation and you find yourself wondering What the hell? Where’s my dreamy Mr.Big and pair of brand new Manolo Blahniks?

Here are some aspects of New York City life you don’t get to see on TV.

Guess what? You HAVE to take the subway. And yes, it smells.

Think back to every Sex and the City episode you’ve ever watched. Have you ever seen Carrie go in, nevertheless near a subway once? No? Thats what I thought. News flash: totally unrealistic. Unless you’re a multimillionaire (insert Mr.Big) avoiding public transportation is nearly impossible. Here’s the good part- you’re not alone. Virtually everyone in New York uses the subway. It’s simply the fastest and most efficient form of transportation and also the most affordable. I personally ride the subway at least twice a day and after mastering the art form of not getting lost ( I say this tentatively) I really no longer mind it. The subways are filled with all the different personalities of New York: hipsters, college students, businessmen and women, senior citizens and occasionally, the neighborhoods’ local crazy person. Taking the subway is such an essential part of being a true New Yorker, so don’t even try to call yourself one if you’ve never had the pleasure of taking this underground joyride. *cough Taylor Swift cough*

You can’t prance around the city in those fabulous heels everyday.

Well, you could. But like I mentioned before, virtually every New Yorker uses the subway and exposing your brand new patent leather pumps to the grime of the subway is just cruel (and stupid). Also, you gotta walk a lot. Most women you see sporting an impressive pair of heels on the street almost ALWAYS has a trusty pair of flats in her purse. The trick is wearing your flats to commute, but slapping on those high heels whenever you get to where you’re going. Yes, this actually happens and yes, it actually works.

You’ve got to be smart. Or act like you are.

Tourists are a huge target for pickpockets and thieves. And also, unfortunately, lost and innocent college students. You always have to be aware of your surroundings and where you’re going or else, you could have a reallllllyyyy bad day.

The food is really really really good. But really really expensive. Like really expensive.

I would love nothing more than to trot down to my favorite cafè everyday for lunch but guess what- it adds up over time. I learned this one the hard way, unfortunately. It’s almost impossible to get lunch in the city for under $10. Four classes a week= 4 lunches= over $40 in lunch money a week. So yes, sometimes I do treat myself to a soy vanilla latte and a fabulous gourmet panini for lunch, but it’s all about moderation. Packing lunches is definitely the way to go.

It can be really loud. And really smelly.

If someone asked me What sounds remind you most of the city? I would immediately reply blaring horns and sirens. Not a day, scratch that, an hour passes without hearing one or both of these lovely sounds. Fortunately, I’ve gotten so used to it, it doesn’t even phase me anymore. I could go into great detail about some of the affronting smells I experience

day to day, but I’ll spare you the gory details. The good news is, sometimes you get a  delicious whiff of New York Pizza or fresh brewed coffee from the adorable bakery on the corner. ( Spoiler: there’s an adorable bakery/cafe on EVERY corner).

Shopping sprees are totally fun. Lugging your crap around all day is not. 

One really important aspect to remember when going out for the day (Or night) in the city is this: whatever you take, you have to carry. All the time. So yeah, my impromptu trip to H&M was totally fabulous, but carrying around the shopping bag all day was not.

I write this post not too complain about the hassles of city life, but simply to enlighten people who comment “Oh my gosh you’re life is like a dream!” or “Wow, you’re life reminds me Carrie Bradshaw’s!” And let me get one thing straight: I am completely obsessed with my new life here. I wouldn’t give up these daily complications for anything. While life in NYC isn’t nearly as glamourous as Gossip Girl and Sex and the City make it out to be, moving here was the best decision of my life. Every day I get to wake up, throw on a fabulous outfit, and dive into the city I love so much. Everyday, I see something new or inspiring I probably wouldn’t see anywhere else. Everyday I get to study what I love and constantly be exposed to it. Just from living here a mere three weeks, I have learned so much about myself, responsibility, and most importantly, started the beginning of a career I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl. It won’t be easy and it won’t always be glamorous, but it will be worth it.