Written by Katie Walls, of Active Minds at Elmhurst College.
My name is Katie Walls and I am a Survivor.
When I woke up the morning after my suicide attempt, I decided that I needed help beyond the therapy that I was already receiving, so I made the decision to go to a residential treatment center. After completing residential treatment, I felt slightly better, yet still struggled. I continued to struggle until I found my home at Elmhurst College’s chapter of Active Minds.
I had no knowledge of what Active Minds was. All I knew was it is a club that talks about mental health disorders on campus. In the course of a couple of months I went from attending my first meeting, to taking charge of prizes and giveaways for our PostSecretU event, to president of the chapter.
I am starting this upcoming year as President of Active Minds at Elmhurst College. I believe that I was led to this opportunity because I have a unique perception of mental health disorders and suicide due to the fact that I have lived it.
I have seen every side of the mental health system. I have been the person who didn’t think they needed help; I was the girl who didn’t know what was wrong with her. I denied feeling depressed to my friends and kept secrets from both them and my family about how I was really feeling.
I understand how hard it is to talk about things such as depression and suicide. Especially when you are trying to talk with people who don’t think they need help, don’t understand, or just don’t care. I have heard all the “helpful” things people say to you when you’re depressed such as: “you just need to get out of your head,” “don’t focus on the negative things,” or my favorite, “cheer up.”
It’s hard to talk to someone about how you really feel when this is how they try to help. They don’t know how their words hurt and they don’t understand that it only makes your depression worse.
I believe that I was led to Active Minds to open the conversation about mental health in new ways. I can look at a prospective Active Minds event through the eyes of someone who doesn’t want help or doesn’t want to talk about it because I have been there. I can tell you that I would have never gone to hear a speaker talk about suicide unless there was free pizza involved.
As president, my goal was to touch one life, and I have already surpassed that goal. My new goal as president is to touch those people who don’t think they need help, that don’t want help, that don’t understand, or don’t care. I would like to change not only the conversation about mental health but what you think of when you think of mental health related activities.
My life didn’t really begin until the day I tried to take it. I wouldn’t have the passion for helping others that I do now if I was still in that place. I wouldn’t have the ability to hear the hurt and see the pain when someone tells me they’re fine, and I definitely would not be President of Elmhurst College’s chapter of Active Minds. I believe that I went through what I did so that I may share my story and touch a person who might not have been touched otherwise. To put a twist on talking about mental disorders so we can reach those who we may not be able to reach in any other way.