Emerging from the darkness
In September, the APhA–ASP House of Delegates passed Resolution 2020.1, which encourages schools and colleges of pharmacy to provide mental health resources for students, including readily accessible counseling services. The following student pharmacist’s story offers one personal glimpse into the
importance of this issue.
I had been suicidal for a year, depressed for just as long, and anxiety-ridden since I was 8—and after two close calls with attempting suicide, I needed an inpatient stay.
The suicidal thoughts ran rampant in my head. It was difficult to stop a thought, but I tried, and I also tried to reason with it until all I could do on a given day was that. It was draining. It took me a long time to seek help, partly because I wanted to handle it on my own, and partly because I thought I could not be fixed. Plus, I had a wonderful family and a job that paid well. I felt undeserving of help. Thankfully, my university’s Counseling and Psychological Services and Psychiatry Clinic offer free to low-cost visits. I was ambivalent about calling them, but these services saved my life.
Riding out the storms
After spending 10 days in a behavioral health facility, I could hardly wait to be discharged. As much excitement as the day brought, there was also apprehension. What if it gets bad again? Soon after, I decided to go to cognitive behavioral therapy, which trained me to pause my anxiety and ask: “What’s the worst that could happen? Is it really that bad?” Visit after visit, I would talk about what was making me anxious, and my therapist would suggest using that strategy.
I still use it. For example, what’s the worst that can happen if I don’t match? Is it really that bad? My therapist used to say, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” So, I will cross that bridge when I get there.
I wondered if the medication would turn off the suicidal thoughts like a light switch. Not really. The thoughts went from every living moment, to a few times a day, to every few days, to weeks and months without them. That is not to say that I am cured. There have been times when it has gotten bad again, especially once school started. I have texted the crisis help line (text TALK to 741741). This time, I know the storm will pass; I just need help riding it out. My college of pharmacy has a counselor dedicated to students. Friends have used this service and said it has helped, and my hope is that more pharmacy schools will offer one.
I thought getting help was the end of my plans to get into pharmacy school. Instead, it began a journey that has strengthened me to take on great challenges, share my experiences with others, and be a part of a community that for so long remained in the darkness. We can emerge from that darkness.
Mariellee Aurelio is a final-year PharmD candidate at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy.