Let’s talk: a special submission on mental illness

Editor’s Note:
In light of mental illness awareness week, the Psychology Club submitted an article to the Clarion featuring personal experiences of Citrus College students with mental illness.

As the editor-in-chief and as someone who has been a support system to loved ones suffering from mental illness as well as experienced mental illness firsthand, I feel this article is of great value to the Citrus student body.

It takes great courage to come forward with personal experiences in an attempt to encourage others to stay strong.
This was written by president of the Psychology Club, Isaias Perez, and Vice President Mikaela Villanueva in an attempt to continue the conversation on mental illness and hope.

Opening up a discussion on mental health awareness grants the opportunity to make this topic less taboo. Recently a couple of Citrus College students began this discussion.

Alexandria Jensen was willing to share her story in an attempt to possibly help people who face similar situations.

At a young age she lost her mother to cancer but it wasn’t until a couple of years later she began to feel the effect of her loss.

She started to feel alone to the point where death seemed to be a suitable answer.

One day, her grandparents noticed her behavior and asked her about it.

Jensen told them that she felt like she didn’t want to live anymore.

Her grandparents, however, only considered it to be a phase. A couple of weeks later, she locked herself in her bedroom and attempted to strangle herself. Luckily, the police came on time and were able to talk her out of it.

During her 72 hour hold, her grandparents reached out for help and Jensen went to Aurora Charter Oak, a behavioral health care facility, where she received the help she needed.

As the years progressed, she received more help and transferred to Pacific Clinics, another behavioral healthcare facility, where she furthered her progress.

“It was a definite struggle,” Jensen said, but she started to see the silver lining. It wasn’t easy by any means but when asked what advice she would have given herself 5 years ago she said, “let people help, open yourself up to being helped.”

It was hard for her since she said “didn’t like getting help,” and said she thought (getting help) was a weakness.

“I thought that was some sort of shame,” she said, “when in reality it’s a sign of great strength being able to open and being vulnerable to others.”

Through her hard work and dedication she found the perseverance to overcome her state. She has now placed herself in a position where she is currently helping others with special needs, and continues to share her story with anybody that needs to hear it for help.

Psychology major Mikaela Villanueva, 19, also attempted committing suicide multiple times. Unfortunately, turning to her family for support was not an option.

“We don’t really talk about anything and mental health doesn’t really exist,” she said.

Her family did not take her mental health issues seriously and turned to humor to avoid the problem.

“They ridiculed me to the point where suicide just became a huge joke,” Villanueva said.

A sense of pride is an integral quality in traditional Filipino culture, therefore ignoring and masking over issues was how her family coped with anything regarding mental health.

Along with this, Villanueva said she also dealt with bullying throughout her life. She was bullied throughout middle school and high school.

“I kind of got that thought reinforced…like ‘I’m not good enough,’” Villanueva said.

As a result, she continued on with a shattered self esteem that later developed into a drug and alcohol problem by the time she was 15 years old.

Later on, she said she also had to deal with the passing of her closest friend, Joshua, who decided to take his own life.

Soon, Villanueva turned to the thought of suicide once more and almost succeeded.

“I would think about ways that I could do it painlessly and I think that is an indication that I didn’t want to inflict pain on myself because on some level I still loved myself,” Villanueva said.

She was able to find worth and meaning within herself. Now in good health and involved in Psi Beta Honors Society and the Psychology Club, Villanueva is able to help those who are struggling the way she did.

“I never thought my life would be like this a year ago, I am so glad I never went through with it,” Villanueva said.

To start a journey of a 1000 steps you cannot dismiss the first step: talking, discussing, and letting people know that there is a problem.

Openly discussing this type of problem is not an easy step, however, it is a necessary one.

It may help others to know and understand that mental illness is not a problem victims face alone.

As Jensen said, “talking is the most important thing when it comes to mental health.”



Megan is on her second semester as Managing Editor and Ad Manger for the Clarion as well as a contributor for Logos magazine. She has served three consecutive semesters as the editor-in-chief previously for the Clarion and is now focusing on supporting her staff and leaving a substantial foundation for future student journalists at Citrus College. Megan has received a transfer degree in journalism and is finishing a second transfer degree in communications.

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