Interviewed by Ashna from Revive’s Interview Team.
Do you believe the government does enough for those with mental health conditions? Why or why not?
I do not believe the government does enough to help those with mental health conditions. Many acts of terror, such as mass shootings, happen as a result of both white supremacy and easy access to guns. These atrocities have been deteriorating the mental health of Americans nationwide. Regardless, the government has not taken enough action to break down the institutions that uplift white supremacy. Furthermore, the government continually fails to enact common-sense gun control, which leads to the worsening of gun violence in America, which contributes to America’s mental health crisis. On top of this, mental health care is inaccessible for Americans due to its high cost for those with or without insurance. To say to someone to “go to therapy” if they are struggling with mental health is insensitive, as it is difficult for many to afford it. Without establishing universal healthcare, the government will only worsen this lack of access.
How is school during COVID contributing to your overall health?
School during COVID has taken an enormous toll on my overall health, both physical and mental. Before COVID, I used to dance and sing 5+ times a week in school. Both of these activities helped me relieve stress and practice self-care even while dealing with anxiety. Since these activities are largely unavailable due to COVID, I found my anxiety to be heightened. Starting college didn’t help with that either, as getting thrown back into a learning environment after not having school for six months (my high school let seniors stop schoolwork in March due to COVID) made me question my own intelligence. Professors at my university were not as lenient as they should have been during a pandemic, resulting in a university-wide worsening of mental health. All students I know have been struggling with increased symptoms of anxiety and depression due to COVID, and the pressure of deadlines and other aspects of college only make it worse.
Why do you believe it is important for youth to get involved in politics?
The best way to get lawmakers to enact change is by pressuring them through direct action, such as protests and marches. Generation Z is a powerful age group, as they’ve had to grow up amidst numerous catastrophes yet have the drive to call for change. Furthermore, this generation is more socially and economically progressive than any other previous generation. The current youth don’t want minor, incremental reforms – they want transformative change that can tackle the institutions in the US that uplift white supremacy. Because the youth is such a large and growing voting block, they have the power to influence who gets into office and what policies are enacted. If this generation bands together and gets involved in politics, we can help shape the country we want to see – one that puts people over profits.
What steps do you take to get your voice heard?
Especially during this pandemic, social media has been a great way to have my voice heard. I frequently express my thoughts on US politics and social issues on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok. Back when I had school in person, I would regularly have conversations with my friends on social issues to both educate them and hear their opinions on the ongoings of US politics. Through these conversations, I help those around me understand the importance of civic engagement. The most important part of making your voice heard is to not silence yourself when those who disagree with you want to bring you down. Especially as a woman of color in the south, I’ve dealt with numerous right-wing people, especially men, who’d invalidate my opinion, call me uneducated, and do anything in their power to silence my leftist or progressive views. They’d yell random Trump quotes when they saw me in the hallway, and they’d cyberbully me on social media, posting negative comments on anything political that I’d post, they’d do anything to get under my skin. However, I didn’t let them stop me from voicing my concerns that I knew deserved to be heard.
How can one control their anxiety during COVID?
As terrifying as it sounds, reaching out to others and creating support systems have helped me open up about my anxiety. By sharing my concerns and struggles with my friends, we have given each other coping strategies that have helped me control my anxiety during COVID. Also, UNC students are fortunate enough to have access to free short-term counseling and psychological services through our school, so taking advantage of those resources helps. While I get anxious looking at the increasing number of cases around the country, I help balance my anxiety by reminding myself that I am taking the measures I need to be COVID safe, such as staying home and getting vaccinated. Lastly, I find journaling to help me collect my thoughts when going through an anxiety attack. While I don’t journal as much as I should, I’ve found it to help calm my anxiety when I need to most.
What activities do you do to release stress?
Sitting or standing outside in nature does wonders for stress-relieving. Just being able to take walks around the neighborhood and feel the fresh air helps me stay in the present. I also love to dance or sing when I get the chance, as expressing myself through art is one of the most natural things that comes to me. Lastly, I always love listening to nostalgic music: Taylor Swift, One Direction, you name it! As mentioned earlier, writing down my thoughts also helps me collect myself when I am really stressed.
Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important, especially for youth?
For many, including myself, poor mental health is the barrier between ourselves and who we want to be. The youth have so much potential to become impactful artists, engineers, doctors, policymakers, and more. However, a poor mental health can make one lose sight of their goals and dreams. For me especially, this pandemic has made it difficult for me to find the motivation I once had. By prioritizing mental health, we can help ourselves start the healing process from the collective trauma that COVID has brought us.
Is there anything else you would like Revive’s audience to know about you?
For those struggling with mental health issues, especially during this pandemic, I stand in solidarity with you and wish you the best. My mental health is far from perfect, and I still have a long way to go to reach recovery. I’d be lying if I said I wake up most days feeling super energetic, but I am healing through getting professional treatment and working on myself. Please remember that healing is not linear, and any relapses in mental health you have are valid.