"Diagnosis, Treatment, and Advocacy"- By Emily Muench
I want to begin by saying that if you or anyone you know is struggling, you are not alone. If you are concerned about your safety or need someone to talk to, the 988 Lifeline is available 24/7, either over the phone or through chat.
I also want to take this moment to provide a trigger warning. The blog discusses mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, as well as suicidal ideation.
My passion for mental health advocacy didn’t start right away. Diagnosed with depression and anxiety in high school, I began a journey of trial and error with various treatments. College brought hope, and I started advocating for mental health through a campus organization. Now in an MBA program, I'm sharing my story to break mental health stigmas and encourage others to seek help.
Hello, my name is Emily Muench. I am originally from the Cincinnati, Ohio area but have lived in northeast Ohio for the past three years. I graduated this past May with a B.A. in Digital Marketing from Baldwin Wallace University and quickly began a one-year M.B.A. program at the same school.
I love to create and spend a good amount of my free time making art. I love painting, designing, and crafting. Singing is another passion of mine, and I have been performing for the past 15 years in my family’s band. I recently adopted an energetic kitten named Spork. He’s been a wonderful addition to my life.
I have struggled with my mental health for as long as I can remember. For the majority of my childhood, I thought it would be best to keep these issues to myself. I hid away a lot of what I was feeling for the benefit of others. By my junior year of high school, I could no longer hide my symptoms. My mental health was hindering my ability to function on a day-to-day basis and was negatively impacting my relationships with others.
I met with my doctor, received a depression and anxiety diagnosis, and began my treatment journey. Since then, I have been on various medicines and experienced a lot of trial and error. My depression and anxiety were still heavily impacting me when I graduated high school, but I hoped college would be a fresh start.
At first, it did offer a fresh start. I even developed a newfound passion for mental health advocacy. Five weeks into my first semester, I started my campus’s chapter of Active Minds. A mental health organization that works to change the conversation around mental health.
Despite the positives in my life at this point, mental health journeys are rarely linear. I reached an all-time low during my second semester of college and decided, due to suicidal ideation, to check myself into a treatment program. I spent a week at a treatment facility and left with more clarity about my mental health, new medicine, and finally, a psychiatrist. I returned to campus with a support system I had created through the founding of the Active Minds chapter.
Active Minds continued to help me grow personally and professionally. I found the more honest and transparent I was about what I was going through, the more others would follow. In general club meetings, I began to share about my hospitalization, my medication journey, and the ways I tried to cope. I began to include a weekly check-in at these meetings called “How Are You Actually?” that provided Active Minds members a space to share authentically. The meetings still include this check-in, and we have tried to cultivate a safe space in which people are vulnerable.
I also researched and learned so much about different mental illnesses and the stigmas and misinformation that exist. Education and knowledge are key parts of decreasing the stigma that surrounds mental health. Validation is an essential part of conversations regarding mental illness and can go a long way in terms of supporting someone.
After an ADHD diagnosis, ongoing weekly therapy, and monthly med checks with my psychiatrist, I am doing a lot better. It took a lot of work to get to this place, and there are still difficult days when I struggle to get out of bed. However, I have a wonderful treatment team and an amazing support system that always has my back.
I am now in the one-year MBA program at Baldwin Wallace University, co-advisor of the Active Minds chapter I started, and on the Student Advisory Committee for the National Active Minds organization. Thinking back to where I used to be, none of this would be possible if I had not pursued treatment.
It is essential to have open, honest conversations about mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2021. Even with the large number of the population affected, there is so much stigma that surrounds mental illness and treatment, and this stigma prevents people from seeking life-changing treatment. I hope that by continuing to share my story, it encourages others to seek help if and when they need it.