Mental health: Dealing with tragedy and finding your place

Sophomore Conner experiences a tragic loss, which affects his mental well-being. From there, he learns to deal with a life outside his control with the help of others.

Devyn Irvin, Staffer

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Gripping his backpack as he walks through the hallway, Conner* prepares himself for another day as a sophomore in high school. For him, school can be a stress on his life as he deals with anxiety and depression.

Conner suspected he might have anxiety, as well as depression, before his diagnosis. He would often become unmotivated and had a difficult time trusting people. Yet, it was not until a traumatic experience changed his life that he began the process of a professional diagnosis. He went to a therapist due to the unexpected loss of his father after a heart attack. Throughout the grieving process, he began to shut himself off. His mother became worried about him and suggested that he start therapy.

“I had gotten close with my dad, so it was really hard for me,” Conner said. “I didn’t like talking to [other] people because my dad was always the one that I went to.”

After expressing his experience with a therapist, a doctor then diagnosed him with anxiety and depression.

Though he was facing these challenges in his life, he wasn’t struggling alone. His mom and his brother grieved with him and were there to support him. His friends helped him both inside and outside of school, as well. By going with him to office hours, taking him to get his uniform for JROTC and bringing him food after school when his mom worked late, his friends acted as his support system.

“I have trouble trusting people, and so I cut people off a lot,” Conner said. “But the people I still have help me every day because they know that I have anxiety and depression and that it trumps me from doing a lot of stuff.”

Being a member of the Anti-Stress Club also allows him to meet other people who may be going through similar struggles. The club began this year and is a resource that allows students to find an outlet that can help them reduce their stress. Being a part of the club spreads awareness about mental health struggles.

“I think that [resources for mental health in schools] would be amazing because a lot of people suffer from it,” Conner said. “But suffer in silence, which is something I did for very long. It just takes a toll on you. They started the Anti-Stress Club this year. It really helps you get through. It relaxes you, you get to work on work and you’re around other people that have the same [situation].”

Anti-Stress Club was not the only in-school benefit to him and his mental health. In his sophomore year, he decided to join the JROTC program. Being a part of JROTC not only allowed him to connect with others by being on a team but also gives him some relief from his anxiety. He recognized that by being pushed out of his physical and emotional comfort zone. He is allowing himself to combat his anxiety. Being in JROTC is also important to him because it gives him the opportunity to honor his father.

“I knew my dad would be proud of me because he had family who had been in the military,” Conner said. “He talked so highly about our country. He was a very strong American. I knew he would be proud of m,e and I wanted to do something that if he could see now, he’d be proud of it. I believe he will be.”

*Conner’s full name was withheld at his request with respect to his privacy. The feature image was taken from Pixabay also in respect of his privacy.