In our latest interview, written by the lovely Tara, we spoke to the amazing Jessica. She brought up a variety of intersectional topics such as invisible illnesses, mental health education, chosen families, and online friendships.
Question One: We’re delighted to have you on our page, Jessica! A few topics of your interest that you’d shared with us were ‘the importance of a chosen family’, finding online friends, and mental health focus in various places. How did you become passionate about online connections and mental health?
I actually struggle with multiple mental illnesses, and turned to the internet to search for individuals who presented similar to me! finding people who not only accept my illnesses but go through similar experiences in their day to day lives really made me feel validated and seen.
Question two: Why should mental health education become more prevalent in the schooling system? Does your school implement mindfulness/mental health-related discussions in the classroom?
Mental health is the leading cases of young deaths, not only in the americas, but in countries all over the world. when i was at my lowest, my principle forced me into a room with my abusers and thought it would solve my ptsd and suicidal episodes. this was when i noticed a change needed to be done on support of people with mental illness in schooling- putting me in the same room as my sexual abuser and my physical abuser made me spiral into the worse depression, depersonalization, and manic episode i’ve ever had. school faculty aren’t trained to be an ally for the students they teach, which is absolutely terrifying and aggravating. at my school we have an assembly once a year about suicide prevention, due to three students passing away because of suicide/complications of a suicide attempt in less than three years. if these assemblies present actual factual and accurate information about mental health written by someone who actually suffers instead of an observer, i feel so many lives would be saved at my school alone. i know if i felt represented and recognized instead of alienated and attacked during these assemblies, i would have been saved of many horrific years.
Question three: What is the concept of a ‘chosen family’? Why is it important to reduce the stigma of cutting off certain family members and embracing new people into your inner-circle?
A chosen family is a group of people who share a nonbiological bond, who act as an inner circle of mutual support and constant love. chosen families originate from members of the LGBTQ+ community who weren’t receiving support, kinship and comfort by their biological families, so a new group who fulfills those roles is created. embracing new people who love you for you into your inner-circle of individuals is what i consider a crucial step into self love and overall happiness. by creating an environment that is safe, one can finally thrive and be who they are meant to be. there is a stigma that cutting off family members who are verbally abusive/reject you is disgraceful. this stigma is so damaging because no matter if someone is blood related or not, love needs to be spread. if one environment doesn’t hold the correct amount of love and support, create your own! going back to online friendships and their importance, when i was a closeted queer 12 year old, i turned to the internet for answers. over the past 4-5 years not only have i found my brothers and sisters, i finally found my people why love me no matter what. i truly wouldn’t be here without their contributions to my life.
Question four: What are safe and efficient ways to make online friends? What are the benefits of having trustworthy online friends?
I found all of my online friends through twitter and instagram! i found a topic, specifically for me it was celebrities like troye sivan, harry styles, jacob bixenman, etc., and just introduced myself to people who presented themselves as approachable and genuine. these fandoms are an amazing way to get introduced to people who are just like you, with all of the same interests. a common stigma with online relationships is that ever online individual is a sixty year old perverted man. this is not true! all though many predators lurk online behind false identities, i can guarantee there are millions of people who are just like you, looking for friends and love and support. when i wasn’t getting the support that i needed from family and friends, i found people all over the world who made me the happiest i’ve ever been. my first online friend, colleen, is still my best friend to this day. four years later, i value the woman who truly brought out the best in me and saved me.
Question five: Who are your personal icons regarding mental health advocation?
My personal icons regarding mental health advocation are Ruthie Lindsey, Troye Sivan, Jacob Bixenman, Chase Stokes, and so many more influencers. Seeing successful and vocal celebrities who are living as their truest selves, not ashamed of their mental illnesses is so liberating and refreshing.
Question six: How has maintaining online friendships helped you in real life?
Online friendships saved my life hands down. At my loneliest, I had thousands of people to talk to. at my saddest, I had thousands of individuals to cheer me up. at my most depressed, i had thousands of friends who just listened. having these friends who constantly encouraged and uplifted me (and are still doing this to this day!) was what, and still keeps me going. online you can never be alone. when you’re awake and everyone else in your area is asleep, someone in a different time zone is
Question seven: What would you recommend teachers do in order to run an accepting, open-minded learning environment for everyone?
I recommend teachers do their research, and educate themselves on the commonality and severity of mental illness. In order to be open minded, you have to understand the individuals you are surrounding yourself with everyday. in order to learn, one has to be engaged and in a positive work environment, and without representation and understanding of mental health, this cannot be done for many students.
Question eight: You’d mentioned that you’re also passionate about invisible disabilities. Could you explain what they are, and if comfortable sharing, do you have any personal experience with the matter?
Yes! invisible disabilities, also known as hidden Disabilities or Non-visible Disabilities, are disabilities that are not immediately apparent, are typically chronic illnesses and conditions that significantly impair normal activities of daily living. i was born with chronic, heart, lung, GI, and neurological disabilities. on the surface, i look like a passing, healthy teenage girl, who is able to do every activity a “typical” kid can do. this is so harmful, not only on a mental note-we are often accused of faking or imagining their disabilities, but also for our physical health- we push ourselves past our limits, trying to compete with abled individuals during day to day activities. Although our disabilities are not obvious to the onlooker, we are here and we are valid.
Question nine: What is one thing which all of these topics could have in common? If not, is there anything else you’d like to share? Thanks for speaking on our page!
I think what all of these topics have in common is a misconception/stigma about each topic that results in a negative connotation presented on the communities. thank you for giving the opportunity to speak on here! I wish you the best of luck and all the happiness in the world!