Let’s Talk About Depression

There’s a frickin’ pandemic going on — it’s okay to be depressed. It’s lonely, people can literally transmit a deadly disease to you by accident, and we still have classes, jobs, and responsibilities to follow through on. Even without the existential dread brought on by a pandemic, depression is straight up not a good time. Talking about it and seeking support, therefore, sound like fairly decent ideas. 

I want to preface all of this by acknowledging that everyone’s experiences, thoughts, and support systems are inherently different, and always valid. My struggle with depression was, for quite some time, about validating my own experiences and recognizing I am capable of finding safe spaces to articulate my thoughts. Before Oberlin, I came from a place where admitting to poor mental health was discouraged and stigmatized as a form of weakness. My peers back home had a skewed understanding about mental health partially because there was a lack of appropriate channels for support and an absence of proper resources and language to understand mental health. Coming to Oberlin and realizing that I was, and continue to be, depressed finally meant that I could find help when I looked for it.

So, I started a process of educating myself about myself. I went to the Counseling Center, and in full honesty, didn’t go back for a second session for a whole month. I didn’t, and still don’t, like speaking about my mental health, because it makes me feel vulnerable. But I did finally realize that the words I said out loud led directly to knowing what I was dealing with. Knowing was important to me because I could finally start dealing with my experiences and work toward feeling better. It took me a while, but I also realized that being depressed didn’t mean there was anything wrong with me. In fact, waking up in the morning, going to classes, doing a job, meeting with friends; finding my normal amidst an unprecedented moment in my life, even pre-COVID — is a genuine win.  

Now, we are experiencing a shift in the normal. Finding a space to create a personal sense of normalcy can be difficult, but I encourage you to try. An article by Emma Edney published in the Review on Sept. 23 titled “Mental Health Resources on Campus are Here to Help,” talks about the various resources that students and the College have developed to support mental health. In addition to recommending the article, I will say that Oberlin is home to people that care about each other; someone is always there to help. We are a sensitive, proactively helpful community that teaches and learns from itself because we are surrounded by curious and kind people. Testament to that is Sophia Garcia’s Sept. 16 article “Tips for Effective Communication During the Pandemic.” Based on her research and work in Oberlin, Garcia wrote about ways in which we can interact with each other to facilitate safe, healthy, and supportive conversations during COVID-19.

I know that talking about my depression is important. And while it is also difficult, Oberlin’s community has helped me do this in many ways — a year ago I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to write this op-ed. Even now, as the days get shorter and colder, and we find ourselves still needing to stay physically distant from our friends, our community is adapting and finding new ways to bring us together. Program Board’s outdoor movie nights, Backyard Games at Bailey Field, and concerts like “Sila: Breath of the Wild” are just a few forms of community engagement we can be proud of. It can also be fun to Zoom with friends, have a game night, or host a Netflix party. Yes, we are physically distant, but we can still be together as people and continue to experience relationships in new ways. We are not alone.

So, let’s make the most out of being together as we are by talking about mental health. Let’s try to live in a world where we can have these conversations without worrying about how “mental health is stigmatized,” as Edney points out. If we truly want to support the people we care about, then it is necessary we work toward creating a safe, non-judgmental, and overall comfortable environment to be vocal in. Oberlin is already well on its way there, and I trust that we can open up and be vulnerable with each other; and I have this trust because our community in Oberlin hasn’t let me down yet, and I know it’ll try its best not to.