Dare to take the first step- Mental illness does not limit you from unlocking your potential in being active in the Student Union!

I am 19 years old, and from the outside, I may look like a totally ordinary freshman. I started Hanken a few months ago and currently sitting at the “halarutdelning” sitz (the sitz where freshmen get their overalls). Through the screams my intoxicated freshman peers and loud music, I can hear that the Freshmen Committee is about to handout the title “Ray of sunshine’’. Unexpectedly I hear my name and think ‘Oh?’, since, quite frankly, it is the last word I would describe myself as. There and then, in that moment, I did not put much thought to it, but over the years as an active member of the Student Union at Hanken School of Economics, the somewhat irrelevant title became increasingly more important to me. 

You may wonder why? Well the thing is, I have been struggling with mental illness for a long time. It is something that affects me every day. Personally, it has been an internal battle, which the title ‘Ray of sunshine’ carved in stone for me. My surrounding and environment has seen me in a different light than I have seen myself. My battle is something that most people are unaware of because mental illness often is something you cannot see physically on a person. The stigma around mental illness is far from where it is accepted in our society. It appears for some reason to be more acceptable to have seasonal depression, winter sickness or the flu than experiencing anxiety or depression. Let us change that.

I was so afraid and worried over how people in my circle of friends and everyday environment would react when I began sharing my story about my struggles. Consequently, this led me to not tell anyone. Decisions were based on fear. For example, I decided not to apply to Committees or Positions of Trust because of my so called ‘situation’. I also decided to not openly discuss my mental wellbeing because of fear of how it might affect my possibilities at the Student Union. So believe me when I say, I know how scary the thought can be and I know how it feels to think about needing to protect yourself.

After being a part of the Programme Committee and Vice President for a year, I decided after much thought, to apply for the Executive Board. With my heart pounding in my chest and tears streaming down my cheeks I called the Builder of the Board the day before our interview with the Student Council and told him about my ‘situation’. His response was simply ‘and? That is not going to affect my decision to have you in my proposition of the next Executive Board of SHS’. His response made me never be afraid to tell people or afraid of sharing my journey with mental illness at the Student Union.

I have since tried in many ways and in many different situations to bring up the discussion of mental illness. This is because I want our Student Union and our community to speak more openly of the subject to reduce the stigma around the topic. I believe the more we speak up, the more acceptable it becomes. I also want people that are struggling with the state of their mental wellbeing to not be treated differently, if they do not specifically ask for it, just like we are capable of doing in other situations regarding Positions of Trust at SHS. I do not want the members at our Student Union to feel insecure about who they open up to and being worried about the information will reach the wrong crowd and possibly be used against them. I have during my time in administrative and social advocacy posts at SHS tried to work to lower the stigma that surrounds mental health. As my time at the Student Union is coming to an end, I hope to leave a more open and understanding SHS behind me. I have during my active time at SHS become aware of my own abilities and how capable of things I really am, despite my so called ‘situation’. I can do whatever I put my mind to and I know that mental illness is not to stand in the way of this.

Now that care my career at SHS for the most part is over and my time as a student at Hanken is nearing its end as I am writing this, I want it to symbolize my last ‘testament’ to SHS and all you readers. It has been incredibly difficult for me to write this, but I hope that you have experienced something. Either by recognizing your actions in the future situations by being more accepting and understanding, or as a person who is struggling with something difficult at the moment, and you are finding hope in me sharing my story. With this text I want to show that I was successful in all my Positions of Trust, being part of the Executive Board, President of the Student Council and President of the Annual Ball Committee. My mental illness did not prevent me from accomplishing my goals. I am proud to say that I have been equally as outstanding with the work I have taken on as anyone else at SHS.

All it takes is your own willpower and there is no one or no thing that can stop you. You do not have to be afraid of someone who might see you as a less worthy candidate for a certain position. Your biggest enemy is yourself- that is why you must know that you are stronger than you think. My surrounding environment has oftentimes given me more trust in me than I have in myself. During the years that I have been open and honest about my wellbeing at SHS, I have always been met with a full sense of acceptance. And in all honesty, if someone tries to harm you or make you feel bad because of your mental wellbeing or somehow tries to use your well being against you, these are people not worth your time and you should simply not give a damn about what they have to say!

I, 19 years and with the title “Ray of Sunshine”, can maybe in some way prove how invisible and yet so insignificant mental illness can be. It is not something that has to define who you are, as little as a broken leg does. YOU define who you are and what you want. SHS is your oyster – do what you want and create unforgettable memories. I did, and I have never and will never regret it.

  • Alina