complied by: Taylor, Kyle, Morgan, Kim
As a local beauty pageant titleholder and a prospective competitor in the Miss America organization, Alex, a, then, 21-year-old student at Lindenwood University, was faced with the decision of choosing a platform. While for many individuals this would be a daunting task, Alex already had something in mind. She wanted to bring attention to an issue that is not often spoken about, an issue to which she had a personal connection. For this reason, Alex quickly realized that she wanted to address mental health awareness and education. She hopes that, through her work, she will be able to reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions. While Alex struggles with severe clinical depression and social anxiety, she did not choose this platform just for herself. She hopes to use it to speak to others who may be going through similar challenges.
“It’s been hard to deal with depression and anxiety in my life...I just want other people to know if they have issues, they are not alone. It is okay to ask for help.”
However, her decision to raise awareness about mental health stigma is not one that she would have chosen several years ago. Alex was not always open about her mental health problems, and she definitely did not want others to know about it, especially her fellow competitors and judges. Yet, during the last couple of years, Alex has opened up more to her friends, and when others seem to not understand, she uses that time to educate them. She hopes to show that, although challenging, mental health problems can be managed and do not have to control someone’s life.
Although she says it “can be frustrating at times,” she “wants them to learn more about mental health and help reduce stigma of mental illness.” It was by opening up to her friends that Alex decided to open up to others. She also looked at the statistics, realizing that because a fourth of individuals suffer from a mental illness, “statistically, one of [her] judges will have a mental illness.”
Alex was diagnosed with severe clinical depression and social anxiety at the age of 12. She remembers the first time that she felt the effects of these illnesses and how difficult it was to manage regular middle school issues and a mental illness.
She said, “It’s hard to care about school and other things you’re supposed to care about when you’re in those bouts of depression.” She said what makes it especially difficult to manage and talk about is people’s ideas about what mental illness looks like: “Not everyone that has mental health problems wears black and listens to sad music all the time,” she says, which is one reason why she has chosen this as her platform—to eliminate stigma and misconceptions. There is no one face of mental health problems.
Although Alex has experienced really low points in her life, even contemplating suicide a few times, she now finds herself in a relatively good place. She attends therapy and is on a medicine that “seems to be working great.” Alex demonstrates that having a mental health problem does not need to prevent one from living life. She knows what it is like to be low, and she understands when it feels “really hard to get out of bed in the morning,” but through the support of her friends and family, Alex has been able to get into a good place. Her parents were incredibly supportive throughout her entire journey, and although she says that her parents still worry, they ultimately know that Alex will let them know if she is not feeling well. In fact, this openness is the practice that Alex wishes others would adopt, and she gives this as advice to individuals experiencing the same things as her: “Don’t be afraid to talk about it; if you talk about it, it can only get better. If you keep it inside, you can’t receive help, you can’t do anything. It sits, it festers… it gets worse. Remember, you are not alone. It is okay to ask for help.”