Zahir Shaikh ’16 ends silence with speech

Zahir Shaikh, Contributing Writer

Mental illness. It’s such a prevalent issue, yet it’s one that never seems to get the recognition it deserves. The reason behind this is problematic – it’s because, as a community, we are too reticent and scared to discuss issues of mental illness.  I gave my speech to drive this issue into the forefront of discussions at Blake.

This article itself is a recognition of how my speech didn’t end with the assembly, but that the message it carried has also been brought along into the day-to-day conversations we all have at school. I am only one of many in this community who are struggling with something that they may not be comfortable talking about in the forum that I did. It’s a matter of demonstrating that even the people who we perceive to be happy on the outside can be experiencing deep emotional pain within.

The reason why many people, myself included, feel restricted from discussing their own mental illness in the community is because there is not an open and inviting way to do so. We have wonderful teachers, counselors, and peers who all strive to make this community a safe and accepting place, yet there seems to be a lack of focus on the detrimental impacts that mental illness can have on all facets of one’s life. The resources are in place, but it’s a matter of increasing their visibility so that those struggling with depression and other mental illnesses have the ability to seek those assets and ensure that they are put on a course away from those dark thoughts.

Obviously, nothing will be accomplished by simply talking about mental illness. Concrete actions need to be taken so that the awareness continues to increase. I hope my speech functions as a starting point, but also as a point of reflection for the community: How can we be more open and willing to do the hard work that is necessary to ensure that students are dealing with their struggles in a constructive fashion?

I will always be grateful to this community for taking the time to hear what I had to say, and I am amazed  of how quickly we, as a community, have responded to it. We are all taking steps in the right direction and ensuring that all members of our community don’t have to remain silent any longer. Again, I ask of all of you: be open and be heard. We have an opportunity to change the way mental health is looked at far into the future.

Let’s not waste it.