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Raising awareness about mental illness, woman shares story of overcoming

INDIANAPOLIS, (WISH) — May is Mental Health Awareness month and dedicated to increasing awareness and starting conversations about mental issues.

Many people will be impacted by a mental illness at some point in their life. Depression is the leading mental illness and impacts more than 300 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organization.

22-year-old Samantha Brinkman understands mental illness very well.

“I grew up in a pretty hostile environment and eventually my family ended up losing everything through bankruptcy. My parents also got divorced and separated at the same time,” Brinkman said.

She also faced identity issues and was harrassed online. All of that made her fall into a deep depression.

“Even when I had everything going for me I still wasn’t happy and I couldn’t figure out why. I tried to take my life one day and that was a result of everything that had been going on,” she added.

That was during her freshman year of college and that is when she decided to get help. She spent a week at the Stress Center where she learned how to cope and get a handle on the mental illness.

“My faith really helped me out a lot through that. I also have an amazing support system of friends that really got me through that time.”

After her time in the Stress Center, she realized she needed to become a part of something that is bigger than herself.

“I needed something that made me feel like I had a purpose. Without a purpose it’s really easy to get caught up in all of those feelings like ‘why am I even here?’”

That is when she started the non-profit Students Who Care. Brinkman uses her organization to educate people to get conversations started and let people know they are not alone.

“There’s a lot of stigma behind it. People often fear things that they don’t understand. It’s definitely okay to need help. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes,” she said.

Anyone can have a mental illness. About one in five children ages 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.

“I think we combat it by educating people about the symptoms. What to look out for and not be afraid to ask for help. There’s good treatment available. It’s just a matter of working on these issues early and often,” said Natalie Dattilo, who is a Psychologist for Priority Wellness.

She said attitudes toward mental illness need to change.

“I think the number one problem we need to confront as a society is reducing the stigma and shame attached to mental health issues or behavioral health issues,” Dattilo added.

Symptoms of mental illness can range from anxiety, refusal, to emotional symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, and more.

If you know of someone who is contemplating suicide, call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK or text the Crisis Text Line. Text CONNECT to 741741.

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