Editor's Note: This ongoing thrive series looks at how students on college campuses are innovating, overcoming challenges and living healthy lives.
ONTARIO -- Kaylee McCormick grew up as an active and engaged student, but with a driven mentality also came pent up anger that she could not understand.
It wasn’t until high school that she considered she may have had a mood disorder.
“I was exhausted, I was unmotivated, I didn’t feel like doing anything,” McCormick said.
McCormick is in her third year as a Creative Writing major at The Ohio State University at Mansfield. Although she is flourishing as a student, she claims it wasn’t always this way.
“I was trying to start arguments with everybody, and didn’t even know why,” she said.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), one in every five teens has some type of mental health problem in any given year. Even more troublesome, the late 2010s saw a large increase in U.S. adolescent psychological distress compared to the mid-2000s.
The APA suggests a generational shift in mood disorders rather than an overall increase across all ages.
Why is this occurring? And perhaps a more important question to ask - how does Generation Z fight these mental disorders?
McCormick has found a way to do just that. She is a great example of how to overcome and thrive while living with a mood disorder.
McCormick recalls being an angry child and mentions that while growing up, she was neglected by her mother who became addicted to drugs.
In high school, McCormick’s mood swings worsened. After seeing multiple doctors, she finally found a primary care physician she could trust.
“She was the first person I reached out to and was like ‘this is how I am feeling and I don’t know why’,” McCormick said.
McCormick’s doctor determined she had bipolar disorder. She prescribed her medication to see if that would help her mood swings.
And it did just that. McCormick states, “now that I’m medicated, I just feel like so much (more) energy. I want to do everything!”
One of her professors, Elizabeth Kolkovich, Ph.D., has noticed a change.
“Kaylee has always been a dedicated and promising student, but this semester, she is more focused,” Kolkovich said.
Kolkovich also mentioned that she was “glad she felt comfortable sharing some of her medical problems with me so that I understood what obstacles she faced.”
McCormick’s classmates and friends have noticed a change as well.
“She seems more engaged in conversation, happy and healthier, and it makes me happy for her,” one of her close friends stated.
McCormick not only is a full-time student, she also volunteers with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DD) through local organizations like The Raintree, Chapelwood and Daysprings Assisted Living. And she works in the Writing Center at OSU Mansfield as a tutor.
“There (are) a lot of people out there who don’t want to talk about their mental illness, but they feel trapped. So if you could just reach those people to know that they’re not alone, we’re gonna have less suicides, we’re gonna have less self-harm,” McCormick stated.
In order to “reach (those) people, who don’t want to be reached, McCormick is working with OSU faculty, like Coordinator of Academic Success Darla Myers, on ideas on how they can help other students cope with their mental disabilities.
“Before my medication, I never would have done that because it was just like too much work and I didn’t wanna do it,” McCormick said.
Now, she is going above and beyond to help her fellow students after receiving help herself.
“The only time we talk about mental illness is behind closed doors and in hushed voices,” McCormick mentions.
McCormick is fighting against the stigma which surrounds mental illnesses.
“I just want to break down that door and scream, ya know, like be able to reach people and be like ‘you're not alone,’ like ‘we’re in this together,’ ya know?”
McCormick’s advice for young adults who struggle with mental illness is based on her own roadblocks.
“Know your insurance steps first, before you say ‘I’m just gonna go see a doctor’ because that’s not gonna make you feel any better when you have to pay $200 for a mood stabilizer. Or $300 for the psychiatry visit,” McCormick said.
Furthermore, she warns about the addictive side effects prescription drugs can have for mental illness.
McCormick also suggests speaking with a counselor. But most importantly, “know that you want to get help.”