Julia Schliesing was recently crowned Miss Minneapolis 2014. For three years, Julia hid her mental illness from her friends and family. But after a close friend committed suicide, she vowed never to stay silent again. Her pageant platform is suicide prevention. Through open dialogue about mental health, she says, suicide rates will decrease.
Commentary from Dr. Carolyn Phelps
Three cheers for Julia Schliesing who breaks every stereotype of a Pageant Queen. So for those of you who think pageant queens are superficial, when it comes to Julia you could not be further from the truth. Julia and I had a chance to meet at a radio interview we did for KUMD. She is a wonderful young woman; poised and passionate, committed and courageous, forthright and funny, intelligent and inspirational. I am honored to have met her.
Here are a few of my thoughts on some things that she mentioned in the video. First, she mentioned that she remembers first feeling depressed when she was 7 years old. And to that I want to add , “Yes – kids can suffer from depression!” Remember depression the illness is different from simply having a b ad day. And depression at any age should be treated to relieve the person’s suffering.
When Julia was talking about the memorial that she did for her friend Matt, she believed that he would be surprised to see how many people turned out to support him. How many people would have been there for him had he told someone about his depression. In fact, when severely depressed, people often lose sight of the support they truly do have. Sometimes this losing sight is Influenced by the withdrawing from others that often accompanies depression. To those with depression I want to say: even when you withdraw, your true friends and family still love and care about you. You have not lost them, you just have stopped seeing them. If you know someone who is depressed, keep reaching out – even when they push away. Even if you are just letting them know that you will wait for them to feel better. And of course encourage them to get help.
Julia raises the point that her friend Matt did not talk about his depression and that our silence around the topic of mental health and mental illness is killing people. Having conversations about these topics should be no different than having conversations about physical health problems. This is the way that we will defeat the stigma associated with having psychological problems. It is also the way that people will come to learn that help is available and help is transformative.
Finally, Julia talked about the importance for her in the treatment of her own depression of making lifestyle changes. The thing is, if we want to be our best self then we need to first give our bodies what we know our bodies need. It’s what we all know – and often ignore: sleep enough, eat right, move our bodies, stop doing the stuff that we know hurts more than helps, be around people who lift you up and who also will tell you the truth, cultivate optimism and peace in your own life. For Julia acupuncture has been a key ingredient for her peace and feeling better. In fact, eastern healing methods have been helpful for many people. We all need to find what works for us and then incorporate it into our lives.
Thank you Julia for finding your voice. May it inspire others to find theirs.