By: Harrison Neville
Many mental health professionals recognize that there is a stigma surrounding mental health. Because of this, ending the stigma was a large part of the focus for TRIO-Student Support Services’ Mental Health Awareness week activities.
On Monday, Oct. 4, students gathered with TRIO-SSS academic coordinator Tomeiko Scott and TRIO-SSS director Portia Stallworth on Main quad before starting their walk to Flowerhill.
Once at Flowerhill, the group gathered around as TRIO McNair Scholar Madison Lawrence shared her own experiences struggling with mental health stigmas.
Lawrence explained that she originally lived on a small island in the Caribbean called St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which had very limited assistance for individuals in need of mental health services.
Lawrence told those gathered that she first began to struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder in the third grade. It manifested with compulsions to draw lines on paper. These compulsions eventually subsided, but in the sixth grade she began to struggle with obsessions.
When she talked to a teacher about some of the obsessions she was struggling with relating to religion, the teacher informed her that she was possessed by a demon, something that Lawrence did not find helpful.
Coming to America changed everything for Lawrence. She was given her official diagnosis of OCD in 2019 after visiting a therapist. She now is able to take medicine to help her manage her OCD. Something that Lawrence wanted to make clear to those listening was that there was “nothing wrong with taking medicine for mental health.”
According to Lawrence, it is vital that mental health is treated the same way as physical health, and people should feel comfortable going to a therapist for mental health the same way they would for a physician when they are not feeling well.
She encouraged everyone to reach out if they were struggling in anyway, and reminded them that there were free resources on campus to help those who might be having difficulties relating to mental health.
She said that mental health diagnoses don’t define people.
“I am not OCD, I have OCD,” said Lawrence.
Both Scott and Stallworth thanked Lawrence for sharing her story. After Lawrence was done, the group attempted to light some candles, with limited success due to strong winds.
After the lighting of the candles, the group recited a pledge to end the stigma surrounding mental health.
Harrison Neville is the editor in chief for The Alabamian. He is a fourth-year English major whose hobbies include reading, hiking, cooking and writing. He has previously worked for The Alabamian as a managing editor, distribution manager, copy editor and SGA columnist.