My name’s Hanna, mine’s Jaxon, and we’re seniors at Glencoe High School.
Jaxon: those of you who know us know that we’ve been friends for a long time but we got truly close in sophomore year when we were both going through a lot. In the ensuing time, our experiences with mental health have been closely linked and we’re here today to discuss the importance of friendship and support networks in promoting mental health.
Hanna: from initially supporting one another to now working together with an international nonprofit in promoting mental health awareness, Jaxon’s and my stories are closely linked.
Jaxon: back in sophomore year, i was dealing with the end an unhealthy relationship and my relationship with my father was hostile and contentious. I was stressed and isolating myself from my friends.
Hanna: at the same time, I was dealing with aftershocks of a death in my family and my existing mental health conditions were especially bad. I was having very severe panic attacks and struggling to stay afloat in areas that used to be easy for me, like school & my other volunteer work.
Jaxon and I had 5 classes together, so we were spending a lot of time with one another. Over a couple of months, we ended up opening up to each other about what we were coping with and I think it surprised us both how much it helped to have someone to talk to.
Jaxon: for the first time in a long time I opened up to someone new about what I was struggling with, and it helped me gain clarity and a new perspective
Hanna: having someone who listened to me and who I could be there for was good for my mental health.
Jaxon: throughout second semester, I was able to start standing up for myself and addressing unhealthy situations, turning the corner from a really dark time to productively handling my mental health.
Hanna: the second half of that year was a hard time for me. In the wake of the shooting at parkland, I was extremely anxious being in the building, fighting with some of the people closest to me, and overtaxing myself trying to stay caught up in school while also preparing for my TED talk and other activism work. I was fortunate enough to have a support system in place, but talking to Jaxon always especially helped
Jaxon: over the next two years as Hanna and I got closer I reconciled with my dad and started supporting some of my friends who were coping with their own mental health issues. Having Hanna to support me allowed me to help my friends more effectively.
Hanna: Junior and Senior year have had their fair share of ups and downs, but throughout it all I was learning to cope and handle my mental illnesses. I can’t overstate the importance of my support network in coping with what will likely be a lifetime’s journey.
Jaxon: we’ve both learned firsthand the importance of having a support network in place when your mental health is both good and bad. If Hanna hadn’t checked in on me and learned I was struggling, i would have had a much, much harder time coping with the struggles I was having.
Hanna: the story is the same for me. I struggle with isolating myself and feeling alone, but no matter what’s going on I know I always have someone looking out for me. The support of Jaxon and other people in my life has given me the courage to share my own story, and in working with ASHA International, the nonprofit we both are a part of, we’ve been able to reach thousands of people across the region.
Jaxon: Hanna also got me involved with ASHA, and with her encouragement, I’ve told my story in several schools, reaching over 1,000 students. We’ve seen firsthand the impact talking about mental health can have on our community, and hope to continue that work here at our school.
Hanna: not only has supporting each other helped us cope, it has also given us the courage to speak up and spark change across the community. Recovery is a process, and much of what I struggle with, I’ll struggle with forever. Mental health is a journey, and the support I’ve had from Jaxon and others has made the journey so much easier.
We encourage you to check in on all your friends, have meaningful conversations relating to mental health, and consciously build your own support network.
Jaxon: if we as a community support each other, we can beat stigma and grow to be mentally healthy, together. Thank you.