Op-Ed: The Impact of a Support System

By CJ Schirmer



Youth activist CJ Schirmer on how advocating on behalf of mental health has helped him grow as a person and strengthen his relationships with others.



A little over a year ago, I was in the psych section of the local hospital room for the 7th time getting sent to an inpatient facility. At this point I thought there would be no end to hospitalizations, no end to suicidal thoughts, no end to bad relationships, and I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that I was wrong. For the longest time I pushed people away when I needed them most, I wanted to be independent, and sometimes that can be frustrating for you and the people around you. I thought if I couldn’t help myself I would be looked at as “weak” or “lazy”, and it took me too long to realize that what I actually was when I received help was patient and cooperative.


For the longest time I pushed people away when I needed them most . . .

If you were to ask me a year ago “CJ, where do you see yourself in the next few years?” I would probably say the worst, but here I am, a little over a year later and I am doing so much better physically and mentally. It’s taken me so long to get here, and I still do have my bad days, but that’s okay because everybody has bad days. I’ve wanted to drop out since 3rd grade because I just hated school, it was very frustrating, my plan was that the day I turned 16 I would drop out of high school and just sleep all day… I’m 17 now and I’m a junior in high school. I’ll be the first junior in the history of my school to gain early college access and have about 5 college credits by the time I graduate.

I’ll be the first junior in my school to gain early college access . . .

There was a time where I would sit in my psychiatrist’s office with my headphones in because I didn’t care what he had to say about my diagnosis’ or medications, I was sick of talking about mental health. Here I am now a couple years later and I’m willingly spreading awareness on Instagram and Facebook, I’m currently in the process of helping out with a television show about mental health, it’s crazy!


The point I’m trying to make is that things can get better.

The point I’m trying to make is that things can get better. It does take a lot of hard work, and some people need to take more time than others and that’s completely okay. People with mental illness are not being dramatic when they say “I think I need a therapist” or “I think I need to go to the hospital” they are being aware of their problems and wanting to solve them. What society needs to do is normalize receiving help. We need to stop shaming others for taking time off of work and school to get help for their mental health because not only does it make people who are suffering feel bad, it prevents them from getting what they really need.


What society needs to do is normalize receiving help.

There are people who have somehow painted people struggling with mental health to be “violent” and “unpredictable” and that’s stereotypical. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of people with mental health issues are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. People with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crimes than the general population. Getting help has helped me, personally, grow so much, it’s strengthened my relationships and helped me create new ones. If you know someone who is receiving or has received help, the best way you can comfort them is to just be there. Let them know you love and care about them because sometimes that’s what they need to hear from somebody.



BIOGRAPHY: My name is CJ Schirmer, I’m 17 years old. I’m from Massachusetts, USA, and I’m a mental health advocate. After dealing with my own fair share of mental health issues, I realized that parts of my story could possibly help others reflect and get an idea of what could potentially happen next. I still have my bad days, but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person, it means I’m a growing person. And sometimes that’s the best thing to be.

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