September is Suicide Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness to the issue.
Elon junior Rob Meehan has had anxiety for most of his life and began experiencing depression his junior year of high school.
“I sort of broke down and my parents said, ‘you know, you have to go to a therapist, you have to talk to somebody about this,’” Meehan said. “I was sort of just letting stuff build up. I noticed that even in the good times I just wasn’t having a good time, I was sort of just stuck. I told my parents a lot that I felt like I was in limbo almost. I just didn’t really know how to feel. It was just a very confusing time, honestly.”
Meehan, who described himself as a go-getter and a hard worker, said he’s determined to get through his struggles with mental health. Since starting therapy and medication, Meehan said he’s beginning to understand how to cope.
“There’s always gonna be bad days. You just have to learn how to manage those and be able to open up to your friends and reach out if you need help,” he said.
Dealing with depression and anxiety amid the coronavirus pandemic posed challenges for Meehan. The uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic is naturally anxiety-inducing, according to Mark Eades, a counselor at Elon, and feelings of isolation associated with physical distancing can also affect mental health.
“I love my parents to death. It's just that being around them 24/7 sort of started feeling like I was in high school again,” Meehan said. “And high school wasn’t my best time and it just sort of brought some things up that weren’t too great.”
Once returning to Elon, Meehan began to focus on ways to help him cope and lift his spirit. Things as simple as watching “The Office” on Netflix, taking a walk or listening to a Boston Red Sox podcast can help take his mind off of his thoughts, Meehan said.
Meehan is using his struggles with mental illness to help make a difference on campus at Elon. He’s the vice president of Active Minds, an organization that helps raise awareness to mental health issues —something he said he joined to help people with similar struggles as him.
“Having somebody there for you to help you find the right resources or even just be somebody to vent to I feel like is really important,” Meehan said. “That’s why I wanted to join Active Minds, to normalize that, normalize reaching out for help. Overall just eliminate the stigma against mental illness.”
Meehan is also a member of the club baseball team, which lost one of its players, Breslin Wiley, to suicide in 2017. Meehan is the fundraising chair and works to help the team raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Since Wiley’s death, Meehan said he thinks Elon has made some strides in increasing suicide awareness — like implementing a suicide prevention QPR program. But he said it’s not enough.
“I just feel like for it to be difficult for a student to get a counseling appointment, I don’t think that’s really a great thing or a great look for Elon,” he said. “I think that if you need a counselor, you should be able to get one the same day. If you need to talk, you need to talk. A lot of times if you wait a day or two it just doesn’t do any good.”
Counseling Services moves appointments and workshops online.
Looking back to nearly four years ago, Meehan said he would tell his younger self to take it easy on himself as he dealt with depression.
“No matter what there are gonna be ups,” he said. “Whether they balance the downs, who knows. But, you know, just knowing that there’s gonna be good times. There’s always good times ahead, no matter what.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.