A student raises awareness about mental health in the book “Work in Progress”
The de-stigmatization of mental health awareness has become increasingly important as diagnoses continue to arise globally, with 20.6% of American adults with mental illness. However, overcoming generations of shame surrounding the subject is a feat that requires a unique kind of bravery and vulnerability.
Ellie McAfee (22C) plans to tackle this task in her own community by writing and publishing her book “Work in Progress”, which explores her mental health issues. By writing candidly about such struggles, she hopes to create a platform to raise awareness and spark genuine conversation for those around her.
To start conversations about mental health, McAfee began writing about his past experiences in the winter of 2020. After being diagnosed with anxiety and depression in his freshman year at Emory, McAfee had to overcome the stigma. that she felt about her mental health, and she has worked on this path since her diagnosis.
“I always thought I overreacted to everything,” McAfee said. “I had never heard the word ‘anxiety’ before high school. When I did, it was a pretty glorious moment, but also really horrible. [I realized] there was a real reason I had so many emotional issues in my life.
Learning about diagnoses like anxiety and depression changed McAfee’s life, and she now believes mental health education should be taught like physical health education. In her book, she details many of her personal experiences, which she hopes will be a step towards greater awareness.
“No one has perfect sanity,” McAfee said. “If we can’t get away from the idea that someone [does], and that there is one goal we should be striving for, we’re never really going to de-stigmatize mental health.
Throughout the writing process, McAfee received support from friends and family. Ashley Brennan (22C), a longtime friend of McAfee, believes this book can help push the Emory community in the right direction.
“It’s so important to educate people and make sure people know they’re not alone,” Brennan said. “Even if someone seems bubbly, that doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting behind closed doors. I think raising awareness of this will show and continue to develop a supportive community on campus. “
McAfee believes the book will not only have a positive impact on the Emory community, but it has also helped McAfee personally. By being open and honest with herself, she better understands her anxiety and depression and is okay with who she is.
“One of my biggest writing goals is to write it for other people, but also for myself; I needed it, “she said.” I had to do it for myself, for others and for the community. “
Tara Martin (22C), close friend and roommate of McAfee, is delighted for McAfee and the community. When people are blamed for their mental illness, Martin thinks it can isolate those who are struggling, but “Work in Progress” can help break down those harmful barriers.
“I think this book will help a lot of people realize that what they feel is valid and that they are not alone,” said Martin. “I think this will help Emory become even more open to asking for help and providing support.”
To draw attention to the book and the issues she wants to discuss, McAfee launched a Instagram account at the suggestion of its editors. The narrative began with the posting of segments she had written for the book, but turned into a medium where she can express her thoughts and daily struggles.
“These are things that are a bit more improvised. It’s less about past experiences than what I’m going through now, ”McAfee said. “From what I’ve seen, this is what people react to the most; I have received so many comments and private messages. I love Instagram, it’s proof of my progress.
However, a big concern for McAfee regarding the state of mental health education is the elusiveness that comes with it. She said mental health education is too difficult to access because it is not taught in schools and many children only learn it after seeking information on their own. While adults may not be as accustomed to recognizing mental health challenges, teachers and parents need to be aware of the impact their words have on children and think about how they impact them. others by discussing mental health.
“It’s just because our parents and grandparents didn’t grow up in a generation that talked about mental health,” McAfee said. “It’s a gap between our generation and the previous ones, but we don’t talk about it enough yet.
With the book on presale in November, “Work in Progress” is currently being edited and pre-published. McAfee frequently posts his stories and updates to the book on Instagram, @ workinprogressbook22