Depression and anxiety are widespread across the world. For too many, it is a difficult topic to talk about, and I know this first hand. When I was 15 and 16, I struggled with major depression and anxiety. It disrupted my school work, my athletics, and my friendships. It was embarrassing to talk about because of the stigma that is associated with the illness. I felt like no one understood what I was going through and that people were going to tease me for not being able to handle my own thoughts. My school work began to plummet and I stopped being the social butterfly I once was. I would go to the bathroom at school and have anxiety attacks. I would not return until the next class had begun. Neither my friends, nor my teachers confronted me about withdrawing from my usual activities, which made me feel even more isolated. I felt like they didn’t care that I was barely speaking or doing any of the homework I once loved to do. Then it came to my attention, maybe they didn’t know what the signs of depression and anxiety were. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States. It is said that roughly 10% of teenagers and 40% of adults suffer from some form of anxiety. There are many forms of anxiety and they all come from a different source. Although anxiety is a mental illness, it has physical effects as well; such as panic attacks, headaches, nausea, dizzy spells, and so many more. Many people suffer with these symptoms and do not get treatment. Approximately 4/5 of teens and 2/3 of adults do not receive help. Depression is a very overused term in our generation, but if someone is truly struggling with the illness, it can be very fatal. About 20% of teens will experience depression before they turn 18 and it increases the risk of suicide by 12%. It can also cause some to abuse substances and have trouble in school or at work. The difference between “feeling depressed” and having clinical depression are tremendously different. Some cases even show that aches and pains are caused by clinical depression. I believe that depression and anxiety are considered a weakness because people are not educated on what to do if they experience it, and because of that, they dismiss the topic entirely. In Minnesota, teachers are not required to be trained in depression and anxiety signs and treatments. If that were a requirement for all educational staff, depression and anxiety could be, one day, obliterated! If I were to be selected as your Miss Northern Lakes 2019, I would use my year of service to travel to schools and inform teachers and students of what to do if they are struggling, or if they know someone struggling with depression and anxiety. Thanks to my sister, who is moderately trained in spotting the signs of depression and anxiety, I was able to get help from a specialist. Although I am still healing mentally from this illness, I believe that because I went through this myself, I am able to connect with people on a personal level. Since getting help, it has been my mission to help others like my sister did for me. Even if I help one person in my entire life fight this battle, it will be well worth it.