More than just chalkings


Natalie McMillan

Chalking at Augustana always caught my attention, but it never glued my feet to the sidewalk before. Scrawled in blue chalk, the message said,“Your mental health matters.” Peeking beneath a sketch of a sunshine, the chalk read, “The sun will come out.” In orange, red and blue, another said, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.”
All of these chalkings were done by the student group, Active Minds, to let people know about their meetings on Wednesday. However, this isn’t Augie’s first show to support mental health. From organizations like NAMI, Active Minds and Gray Matters to services offered on campus like the new counseling group services, Augustana has taken a stronger voice over my years here with normalizing mental health. As someone who was recently diagnosed with depression, this normalization has meant the world to me.
Depression doesn’t just mean that I am sad all the time. 
I am like everyone else. My stomach hurts from laughing so hard with my friends during a John Mulaney marathon.  I love to read, paint and play Quidditch. I love to write for The Observer and I love hanging out with my sorority sisters. I get excited about my classes, while quizzes and tests make my stomach drop.
On good days, even I forget I have lower serotonin levels than the average person. 
On rougher days though, daily functions get more difficult. Sometimes it’s harder for me to fall asleep. Sometimes Quidditch may not seem as fun as it did the day before. Sometimes it is hard to cheer up with Mulaney. I have trouble sitting still. My roommate will tap my leg if its thumping is shaking the table too much. There may be a voice in the back of my head asking why I should bother to leave the dorm. Sometimes I just feel empty.
Depression is not fun, but I live. It may seem like some days I am alone in my head, but seeing things like the chalking this week on campus reminded me that I am not the only one struggling. There are others out there too. Most importantly though, people on this campus care and are there to help us get through life, even if our minds are not that enthusiastic. 
This visibility on campus has personally given me the courage to talk about my depression with my peers and seek out help. 
However, no matter how much visibility or welcoming environment this campus holds, there are days that are just too overwhelming. I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe the best thing people can do when life is too chaotic is be patient and listen.
True, a person could learn all the resources around us and offer them up to a person who is struggling. Advice helps, but listening is the best thing. Sometimes my thoughts are in a jumble that needs to be straightened out, and that takes time. Being gifted a person’s time is one of the best feelings in the world. It shows you care.
Visibility on campus and showing you care are ways to help make our campus better. Though, time is not something we all have. Sometimes we don’t have the time or mental energy to chalk the sidewalks or sit with a person. The best thing our campus community can do is as your eyes catch with someone in the Brew or on the Quad, smile at them.
A smile is more contagious than the Augie Plague. It could light up a person’s day. For me, just having someone smile and wave at me could sometimes flip my rough days upside-down.